By Michael Sugerman, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 17, 2014
He almost wasn’t the president.
Business senior Michael Proppe and Public Policy junior Bobby Dishell lost the 2013 Central Student Government election by approximately 500 votes. The presidential and vice presidential candidates, respectively, ascended to office only after their main opponents were found guilty of “actively influencing” students while they were voting.
Proppe said his unconventional victory was an initial source of friction in the CSG assembly along bitter “partisan lines.”
“It probably held back the assembly from being productive in the beginning,” he said. “At the time there wasn’t really that trust between myself and Bobby and the assembly. It took us a while to build those relationships. After a couple months, that all melted away.”
Despite the rough start, Proppe said he is proud of all CSG accomplished under his administration. He and Dishell, who recently assumed the CSG presidency, initiated two of their main platform promises: the opening of a 24-hour café on North Campus and the implementation of the “Night Owl” bus route.
Proppe added that CSG was also hit with a number of “surprises” that necessitated the recalibration of his goals as president. One of these was the Athletic Department’s unveiling of general admission seating at football games, which was met with heavy backlash by students.
The first resolution that Proppe authored — also the first resolution passed by the CSG assembly this school year — was a call for student input in future ticketing policies, which was ultimately successful in March when the Athletic Department scrapped general admission seating.
In an e-mail interview, Hunter Lochmann, Athletic Department chief marketing officer, said working with Proppe and Dishell to reform the seating policies established the importance of having a student voice contribute to administrative decisions.
“Michael and Bobby have been great partners throughout the entire student ticketing processes, both for football and for basketball,” he wrote. “They’ve worked hard to represent and communicate the students’ best interests and have been a good sounding board for us in Athletics. I appreciate the positive relationship they have formed between CSG and Athletics going forward.”
Proppe said increasing the power of students on campus was consistently a goal of his, and the CSG assembly’s, throughout the year.
When the University’s Board of Regents decided not to provide any student representatives a seat on the presidential search committee, Proppe and the CSG assembly created a poll to ask the student body what they hoped to see from their new University president. CSG submitted these results to the regents’ search committee.
Additionally, he and Law student Jeremy Keeney, CSG student general counsel, introduced a resolution to the assembly asking for increased student oversight of the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. The current hierarchy allows the Office of Student Conflict Resolution and faculty to submit proposed amendments to the statement directly to the Student Relations Advisory Committee without consulting CSG first. The resolution, which passed in January, would have made CSG input mandatory. However, SRAC struck it down.
Proppe’s goal to promote students was also evident in the $10,000 CSG assembly contribution to MUSIC Matters’ end-of-year event, SpringFest. This year, LSA senior Phil Schermer, MUSIC Matters president, said SpringFest said the duo “active supporters” of MUSIC Matters’ goals to elevate the student body as a whole.
“CSG’s role is to hear what students want to do and help make it happen,” Schermer said. “We’ve had a fantastic relationship with that entire team.”
While student voice was a priority of Proppe’s, there were times this year when students felt silenced rather than supported. Though the CSG assembly did pass resolutions in support of the Black Student Union and its #BBUM movement, it had a more difficult relationship with Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, a pro-Palestinian student organization that called for the investigation of companies allegedly complicit in human rights violations in Palestine.
The CSG assembly initially voted to indefinitely postpone a full vote on a SAFE resolution asking for CSG’s support in divesting from these companies in March. The assembly ultimately voted down the resolution at its next meeting.
At the time of the indefinite postponement, LSA senior Suha Najjar, a member of SAFE, said ignoring the resolution posed a limitation on students’ speech.
“What happened on this campus should never happen,” she said in a March interview with The Michigan Daily. “What we’re hoping is to send a message that we’re the student body and you need to listen to us.”
Proppe said SAFE’s subsequent sit-in set an important precedent for CSG in the future.
“We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of the student voice, and for us to do that with legitimacy we have to make sure that we are fully listening to the voices of students.”
“I think, moving forward, you’re not going to see CSG indefinitely postponing resolutions that students bring forward,” he added. “If students or student groups put all the time into bringing forth a resolution, that resolution deserves a vote, ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ ”
Proppe said others accused CSG of placing too much priority on the Athletic Department, whereas diversity fell by the wayside. He said significant budget cuts may have made it seem that CSG was less focused on student organizations — but this is not the case.
The assembly’s strongest strides for diversity and equality on campus, he said, were CSG’s work in tandem with the BSU, resolutions in support of tuition equality and efforts bolstering more University outreach in underprivileged communities — which are also reflected in Dishell’s desired reforms as CSG president.
Ultimately, Proppe said he understands that not everyone can be happy with what was accomplished during his tenure as president. He said there is always more to be done.
“I think that we really demonstrated this year that when students and administrators are working together, there are just much better outcomes for the University as a whole,” he said. “I hope this has really been a learning year for the University community.”