Diversity report finds CSG representatives mostly white, male

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 - 5:40pm

The average Central Student Government member is most likely to be a wealthy, white, heterosexual male, according to results of a comprehensive demographic self-survey released Wednesday morning.

The report, which breaks down the assembly by a number of factors including race, gender, sexuality and family income, comes after campaign promises from CSG President David Schaefer, an LSA senior, to bolster diversity efforts in student government. CSG assessed the makeup of its membership in comparison to Engineering Student Government, LSA Student Government and the University as a whole.

In the breakdown of demographics presented in the report, 69.8 percent of CSG self-identify as white. This is compared to 64.7 percent of LSA student government, 47.6 percent of Engineering representatives and 56.2 percent of the entire student body that claim the same identity.

The second largest group in CSG and LSA SG identified as Asian,  9.3 percent and 14.7 percent, respectively. ESG, however, was 42.9 percent Asian.

A Michigan Daily analysis of CSG leadership conducted in 2015 found similar patterns in executive positions: seven men served as president in a row, a trend now continued by Schafer.

The gender gap in the full CSG assembly — 58.1 percent of members are male, 40.7 percent female and 1.2 percent preferred not to answer — is slightly higher than that of the University’s breakdown of male students at 51.8 percent and females 48.2 percent, according to the report. 

Schafer wrote in an email to the Daily that the report demonstrates the organization "has a lot of work to do." 

"I believe, however, that there is no deeper expression of faith in the potential of CSG than to embrace our imperfections, and then work to improve upon them," Schafer said. "We are excited to connect with communities who are not adequately represented on this body, such as the LGBTQ+ and transfer student communities, in order to ensure that their voices are properly heard on CSG going forward."

The report also measured family backgrounds of representatives. Only 9.3 percent of CSG members are first-generation students, while 37.2 percent of the body comes from homes earning more than $250,000 a year. The University does not publish full statistics on student body income level.

On the whole, LSA and Engineering student governments were more diverse in every category on the survey compared to CSG, though both bodies are less than half the size of CSG.

Surveys of all three bodies were administered last week, and received a 95-percent response rate. A press release accompanying the report’s release emphasized transparency and accurate representation.

“Diversity is critical to ensuring that as a governing body, we are representative of every student on campus,” Schafer said in the release. “We look forward to analyzing the results of the report and conceptualizing ways in which we can better represent our various constituencies.”

Schafer made diversity a major cornerstone of his campaign platform with NewMICH, committing to extending the University’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiative into the assembly. The CSG executive team commissioned the report at the beginning of the school year as an initial assessment and benchmark for future growth.

“I think it’s not only going to hold us more accountable as an organization to improve our diversity in the long term, but it’s also going to allow us to possibly set objectives and measures going forward,” Schafer said at a meeting earlier this month.

Update: This article has been updated to include a statement from Schafer.