Parties fulfill a need in our world, for people to share their ideas, identify similarities and form a structure to help achieve those ideas. The most prescient example of this in the United States is obviously the Republican and Democratic parties. But we can also see this in our student government elections. Our voice will be needed to help shape the policies of the parties, newMICH and Your Michigan, in this upcoming Central Student Government election. It is important that your voice be heard, as the outcome of these elections will shape student life over the next year and beyond.
However, before making a decision about which party to vote for in the upcoming CSG elections, one should be informed about the issue at hand. The two new parties, Your Michigan and newMICH, will be running campaigns on campus this year, Your Michigan with Thomas Hislop and Cam Dotson, and newMICH with David Schafer and Micah Griggs as their presidential and vice-presidential candidates. Both parties will also have representatives running for the legislative assembly.
Arguably more important than knowing the candidates is knowing what they and their party stand for. Your Michigan hasn’t created an official platform yet, as they hope to create a much more in-depth one by tapping into students’ testimonies through dialogues at meetings. However, they have released a list of issues they believe need to be rectified on their website, and a rough plan on how they would hope to fix them, serving as their makeshift platform. The proposals on the website focus on five distinct areas: community, education, safety, spirit and wellness. newMICH hit the ground running, releasing a platform soon after they announced their status as a party. Their platform centers on four realms: connection, student voice, wellbeing and safety and opportunity. While some parts of the two parties’ proposals overlap, they also contain drastic differences in terms of approach.
For instance, while both groups want to promote campus unity and interactions with students, they provide different means to that end. In this area, Your Michigan has a unique idea: revamping the University Council, which would unite all of the 19 student governments on campus through a meeting of all their presidents with the vice president of CSG. The University Council practices could be improved, with Your Michigan believing it lacks transparency with students and is not meeting as often as it should. This is potentially a very important idea that would allow all student governments to coordinate more effectively, and serve both their schools and the University of Michigan as a whole more efficiently.
newMICH proposes holding open Q&As, bringing in experts on certain topics, such as administrators, faculty and the Department of Public Safety and Security. This focusing in could provide valuable educational opportunities for students. On the other hand, Your Michigan said they favor quality over quantity, planning to hold only one town hall a semester, with the agenda being open to the whole University.
In recent years, CSG platforms have been increasingly focused on issues of mental health, preventing sexual assault and supporting survivors. This is appropriate considering these are issues that affect and college students, and University of Michigan students disproportionately. Michigan topped a list of 27 schools this fall for prevalence of sexual assault on campus, with 42.1 percent of University students saying they had felt so depressed that it was difficult to function at least once during the school year as well.
Both parties this year offer many proposals on how to change campus culture to combat these issues. Both present the ideas of peer-to-peer or bystander prevention networks, through training of students on campus. Outside of that, they also both present other unique ideas to change the culture. To support both mental health initiatives and sexual assault prevention, Your Michigan seeks to look outward to form connections with other Big Ten schools and standardize programs with them. newMICH turns inward, focusing on developing programs within the University such as creating a mental, physical and emotional wellness course for students, as well as running awareness weeks that would highlight these issues and encourage campus discussion, and hence action on these issues.
Both parties also want to help increase diversity (socioeconomically as well as ethnically) across campus but again choose different approaches to doing so. newMICH campaign manager Anushka Sarkar remarked in an e-mail exchange with the Daily that “Addressing low levels of minority enrollment is a difficult and historically-charged issue, and doing so requires looking at the root of the problem.” newMICH would hope to combat this by promoting student presence on the University’s Board of Regents to push for outreach to Detroit Public Schools, and provide awareness of the tangibility of an education at the University. They would also try to use this position to push for in-state tuition to be applicable to undocumented graduate students and non-traditional students, whereas Your Michigan has made no proposal to do so.
Students not involved in either campaign have many opportunities to get involved. Parties are, as always, beholden to their supporters, not the other way around. A mixing of these ideas to create a truly multifaceted platform would be in the best interest of all students here at the University. This outcome could be reached through voting for a mixture of representatives in the assembly, or by raising your voice to help shape the platform of a party. What if we could, in this increasingly polarized society, find a middle ground? A party that proposes to help recruit more diverse students, and help them more fully experience our great University through scholarships? A government that looks outward for inspiration, and then brings unique perspectives to accomplish them on campus? A government that would make increased efforts to connect with students, and also connect their leaders? Now that is a platform worth voting for.
Connor Kippe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.