OurMichigan party to vie for CSG presidency

By Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 14, 2012

Though Kevin Mersol-Barg didn’t win the MForward nomination for Central Student Government president on Feb. 3, he recently announced he has made alternative plans to run.

Mersol-Barg, a Public Policy junior and a LSA representative in the CSG Student Assembly, said he plans to run on the OurMichigan party ticket. He will be running with LSA junior Amy Navvab, a former member of LSA Student Government and chair of the Open Housing Initiative — a group dedicated to provide housing to LBGTQ students at the University.

Mersol-Barg said the OurMichigan party is a “coalition” of campus leaders and student organizations that will advocate for students. Members and supporters of the organization will be announced Sunday at a launch party for the group, and the party will nominate candidates for CSG's Student Assembly in March, Mersol-Barg said.

Mersol-Barg said the two major points of the OurMichigan platform are furthering accessibility to the University by preventing tuition increases and increasing student advocacy.

“You need to be empowering minority students to affect the change they want to see and not just passing a resolution saying, ‘We’re helping students,’ because that’s not enough,” he said. “That may be symbolic, but it is not helping the many students that need it.”

Navvab said the campaign is strengthened by her and Mersol-Barg’s experiences and relationships outside of CSG.

“Kevin and I both have practical experience uniting student leaders outside of Central Student Government,” Navvab said. “I’m excited that for our campaign, we’re going to be bringing together students who have not historically been involved in CSG.”

Mersol-Barg was one of five candidates seeking MForward’s nomination, but he lost to Aditya Sathi, MForward's candidate and the current vice speaker of the CSG Student Assembly, who is the only other candidate to announce a run for the presidency. He said his decision to launch a new party was not to spite his former party.

“I think that this is beyond politics,” he said. “This is about what’s best for students … After two years, MForward has really become institutionalized. It’s substituting speech for action and resolutions for change. We are going to take a new approach to this.”

Mersol-Barg added that though MForward’s nominations were only 11 days ago, he had contemplated running outside of the party for several weeks.

Since transferring to the University from Michigan State University in fall 2010, Mersol-Barg said he has been involved with Human Rights Through Education and the University’s chapter of College Democrats. He currently serves as chair of the Communications Commission of CSG and has continued to work towards tuition equality, which would allow undocumented students who have attended school and lived in Michigan to receive in-state tuition.

In support of his cause, Mersol-Barg founded the Coalition for Tuition Equality, a group that has invited the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas to campus on Feb. 22.

Mersol-Barg said he chose to work outside of CSG's typical settings to utilize resources that would allow for more outreach to the campus community.

“I worked with the Peace and Justice Commission on fair trade issues … Student government and the way MForward had really shaped (student government) didn't have the ability to reach out to these student organizations,” he said. “Slowly but surely, my understanding of what good government looked like diverged from what MForward looked like.”