The University of Michigan Central Student Government will be hosting its annual election for the CSG assembly and the Police Department Oversight Committee on March 30 and 31. Two platforms — EnvisionBLUE and Diverse&Dedicated — are running in the executive ticket for CSG President and Vice President. The Michigan Daily sat down with the members from both parties to discuss their platforms and goals for campus if elected.
This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
LSA junior Noah Zimmerman is running for President of the EnvisionBLUE Party with LSA junior Jacqueline Hillman as the vice presidential candidate. The EnvisionBlue platform consists of 30 action items and 15 advocacy projects in collaboration with CSG and campus organizations. Zimmerman said that one of the party’s main goals is to strengthen leadership and representation on campus.
Zimmerman previously served as LSA representative and Chair of the Rules Committee of the CSG assembly. Hillman has not held a position on CSG prior to running this year.
LSA junior Erica Nelson is running for President of the Diverse&Dedicated party with LSA sophomore Ronald Burgaj as the vice presidential candidate. Nelson said that Diverse&Dedicated aims to promote diverse experiences and backgrounds while uplifting unique student perspectives on campus.
Nelson and Burgaj have served as LSA representatives for LSA student government. Both Burgaj and Nelson are also currently running for LSA student government as president and Vice President respectively.
TMD: What inspired you to run this year for CSG?
Noah Zimmerman: Through our past experiences, Jackie and I got to learn a lot about the structure of CSG. I saw myself as someone who got a lot done, but at the same time, I felt CSG was missing something. I had a lot of projects that I really wanted to get done, but I wasn’t able to get those implemented in the (CSG) assembly. That’s when I started to think about running for CSG president. Jackie and I came together and talked about our vision for CSG, the mission that we wanted to create, and that determined that we wanted to run.
Jacqueline Hillman: I’ve actually done a lot of political work. So it’s been really rewarding just to experience politics in the real world and on campus. So I wanted to bring that perspective into campus politics and bring a fresh pair of eyes to CSG and the way it operates. I think that’s reflected not only in our platform, but it really centers well with what Noah is doing in his perspectives from a historical standpoint. Then I can come in and bring in my own approach for my experiences and elevate this campus for all students.
Erica Nelson: I wanted a real seat at a table that is not often invited to me. I wanted to give myself a place in (the) university, specifically in student government, where I can help students who look like me — or don’t look like me — have a voice in the system, have a say in the things that impact them. I am running, because I wanted to be there for the students. I want to be a voice, be a light, and show future Wolverines that being at a place like this and having a voice in the decisions that affect you is important. That’s really why I wanted to run. I want to inspire. I want to lead but I also know how to be led. I want to show underrepresented communities that this is okay and that (the University) is a place that you belong.
Ron Burgaj: A lot of wanting to run is being the change that we want to see happen. Part of being the “Leaders and Best” isn’t just talking the talk, but it’s walking the walk. It’s speaking to the underrepresented groups here at the University, it’s meeting with them, meeting with admin, seeing how we can best incorporate what’s best for the students, what’s best for us. We are the University and our voices need to be heard.
TMD: Is there anything you would like to highlight regarding your campaign?
NZ: The biggest thing is that our candidacy is more of a partnership. There’s this stigmatization of president and vice president. We’re seeing these positions as a separation of focus areas rather than a hierarchy. Jackie and I want to make sure that we’re playing to our strengths. Jackie has her strengths. She’s very good at communications, programming and government relations, so those are the focus areas that she’ll have. I’ve had a lot of experience in CSG policy and law experience with working with the assembly and the other student governments in Flint and Dearborn, the Association of Big Ten Students. I’ve also had some experience working with the Student Organization Committee. We want to be able to make sure that we’re doing everything as efficiently as possible.
JH: Processes that are going to better represent voices on campus. We think different populations, like the Greek Life Community, doesn’t have a spot within CSG to advocate for their needs. With different cultural groups, we want to make sure that those voices are being heard. There are a lot of different structural changes that we want to make in order to allow for that to be the case within (student) government and ensure that our policies are actually going to impact the people they’re intended for. While it’s great to have 15 LSA representatives, that can’t represent 1000s of (LSA) students, so we want to create a space where everyone’s input can be shared.
EN: We’re the Diverse&Dedicated students. We’re diverse in our beliefs, diverse in our experiences, we’re dedicated to making real change, we’re dedicated to underrepresented communities. We have gone out and asked them how we can best (serve them). While campaigning, we’ve gone to La Casa, we’ve gone to the Michigan Africans, we’ve gone to BSU (Black Student Union), we’ve gone to the Arab Student Association and we’ve had conversations with them. We have already taken that leap by saying, ‘How can we best serve you?’ That’s who we are. We want to serve the students, we want to serve the people. People like us, people different from us. That’s just who we are.
RB: We’ve talked with a lot of different cultural organizations on campus. There have been groups that we went to, and they’ve told us, ‘You were the first ones to ever reach out, you’re the first ones that come to our meetings for this, you’re the first ones to actually hear what we have to say.’ We plan to continue that work, because we want to be the change that we want to see. There’s a big growing nontraditional population of students here, and every year that continues to grow: students that are first generation, students that are immigrants in this country, students that are transferring here. We want to give them a seat at the table. So together with their love and support, we can make the University better for all its students so we can be the change we want to see, so we can be diverse and dedicated.
TMD: Why did you two decide to run together as president and vice president?
NZ: We had met a couple times earlier, but we didn’t really know each other before this year. While working on FlipBLUE, we got to talking more and more. We had a shared vision for what campus could look like. We saw that there is a lack of sufficient programming and policies being implemented this year. We don’t think that’s the fault of anyone. It’s just been transition years with COVID. But we thought we could bring a sense of pragmatism and practicality to CSG, especially with our experience in government. So that’s how we decided to run.
EN: Ron and I, we’ve been best friends for a few months now. We met in the LSA student government, and it just felt natural for us to run together because we’re both passionate about making a difference. After talking to each other, learning more about each other and seeing how passionate the other person is, we were like, ‘Yeah, we should do this.’ Especially since we’ve shared some experiences within Student Government that weren’t the most positive, it really solidified our bond. We said we’re gonna be a powerhouse. Let’s get this done. Let’s put that work in.
TMD: For the executive runner, what are some prevalent campus issues you plan on addressing through your campaign?
NZ: Jackie highlighted a lot of our main points that we’re trying to make with the campaign. During my first year, I saw a lot of programs and policies that were directed towards students’ everyday lives, something as simple as the calculator and iClicker loan programs. Jackie and I really want to provide the small things for students that don’t end up being small after all.
EN: We are also advocating for resources for first gen students, for immigrant students, for undocumented students. We want to make sure that we’re getting out (the resources) and telling students, ‘Hey, these things are here for you.’ We are advocating for truly getting to know our constituents because we feel that if we know them, we get to know what they want. Lastly, as I stated before, we’re trying to do programs that the students want, not that the University wants so they can say they had a DEI program.
TMD: For the vice executive, what are some goals you have in mind?
JH: FOne thing I really care about is disability rights and advocacy for those that are differently abled on campus. So on our platform, we really want to emphasize accessibility and transparency, and destigmatizing (disabilities) on campus through practical policies. What really impacts the lives of students, is how (University) protocols are administered on a day-to-day (basis). Some professors require students to handwrite notes and that ostracizes students with accommodations because they’re the only ones with their computers open. We think that contributes to a lot of stigmatization on campus, so that’s one thing that we’d like to change.
RB: Representation must be increased. There’s so much beauty and diversity here at the University, and it must be expressed not only (in) student government, but (also) student mental health resources, like CAPS and Wolverine Support (Network). It’s crucial. When there (are) issues at the University, such as the Anderson (case), we were there to support (the Anderson victims) at the protest. (We also support) things like advocating for better student wages — not just higher wages, a minimum $15 an hour — but also better contract terms for students too. We want to fight for changes that make (student) lives easier and to support programs for students. For example, laptop loaner programs: not every student is fortunate to get the tech that they need to get from school. These programs make a difference. Maize and Blue Cupboard helping to feed students, helping feed faculty — it makes a huge difference. With the support, we can see improvements in student lives.
Correction 3/24: A previous version of this article reported Zimmerman served in the LSA SG Assembly; he served in the CSG assembly. That version also included an incorrect link for FlipBLUE and misidentified the Student Organization Committee. This article has been updated to reflect those changes.
Correction 3/25: A previous version of this article reported Nelson saying she reported Christian Students; she said in the interview she supported first-generation students. This article has been updated to reflect those changes.