Central Student Government elections are currently underway. Save for the spammy Facebook messages you’re likely receiving from your friends — or “friends,” broadly construed — asking you to vote for them, you may not have paid much attention to the elections at all. Students on this campus certainly don’t face a shortage of challenges — but many of them don’t necessarily see CSG as the body destined to solve them.
That needs to change.
Over the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with and get to know David Schafer and Thomas Hislop, two of the candidates for CSG president. Last fall, Schafer and I served together on the College Republicans Executive Board. Hislop and I are both in the Ford School of Public Policy, and have taken three classes together. I’ve seen firsthand how both candidates approach problems, develop solutions and implementation strategies. Both candidates are great people, and I have no doubt that they would both engage with their work as president at a high level.
That said, I had absolutely no reservations when I voted Your Michigan for CSG president and vice president. If you’d like to see a CSG that’s more effective, efficient and equitable, I’d highly encourage you to vote Your Michigan as well.
Hislop is pragmatic and results-oriented. Your Michigan’s platform — which includes tangible, realistic plans to expand and improve mental health care on campus, combat sexual assault through peer-to-peer education and increase funding for student efforts to recruit potential Wolverines from underrepresented backgrounds — reflects that.
I sat down with Hislop and his running mate, Cam Dotson, to discuss their priorities for their presidency and vice presidency if elected. After three years of watching CSG administrations spend undue amounts of time engaging non-actionable issues — like whether or not to advise the University of Michigan to divest from all firms doing substantive business in Israel — I wanted to know whether the duo had a realistic idea of what CSG could accomplish. I asked them what they thought, fundamentally, they believed to be the role of CSG on campus.
“CSG is here to improve the day-to-day life of the Michigan student,” Hislop said. “That is their primary role — to support them, to make them feel safe, to make sure they feel comfortable here and to make sure that the resources they have are there for them and are the best that they can be.”
Your Michigan’s policies start with this fundamental understanding. They prioritize issues that matter most to students and have solid implementation strategies that target the biggest challenge to resource creation and program support — funding. To name just one example, Hislop and Dotson plan to relocate funding from low- to high-impact projects by analyzing uptake rates of seemingly underused resources, like bus services at odd times.
But perhaps the best example of the duo’s superior issue prioritization is a policy that they don’t support, not one they do.
The Daily’s editorial board endorsed newMICH candidates Schafer and Griggs largely due to their plans to work toward creating a non-voting, ex-officio position for a student representative on the Board of Regents. The representative would essentially serve as a student liaison to the board to advocate for, well, students. They argue that this would be better than the status quo, where the CSG president attends and speaks at every formal regents meeting.
Having spent a considerable amount of time studying the legal organization of the University, I can tell you that attempting to create this position would essentially be a waste of time and energy. Further, it might not be possible without changing the state constitution.
The University is what’s called a constitutional corporation. Basically, that means that, though created and funded by the state of Michigan, the state has absolutely nothing to do with its operations, in the exact same way it has nothing to do with the operations of, say, Taco Bell.
But, while Taco Bell and its private sector peers are established through documents called their charters or articles of incorporation, the University was established through the state constitution. Just as all corporations are bound by their charters or articles of incorporation, the University is bound by the constitutional provisions that establish it. These provisions specify the number of regents and how they will be selected.
There’s little question that whatever position can be created on the board for a new student representative wouldn’t be a voting one. At the very least, it would be another ex-officio position. But even creating another ex-officio position for the new student representative would be “undoubtedly questionable” as the Daily itself admits in its newMICH endorsement. More than that, it’s a question of constitutional law.
If this student role is possible at all, it would require the Regents to amend their bylaws to create the position. If they refuse, Shafer and Griggs have little recourse out of court. Given that the CSG president already has a powerful voice with the Board of Regents, the next CSG executive team would be far better served by using that voice to advocate for increased resources for students — which is exactly what Hislop and Dotson plan to do.
Your Michigan’s candidates understand University governance, and they know that pushing for a student on the Board of Regents won’t be an effective way to secure change that improves students’ lives. Instead, they prioritize tangible results and realistic plans for action.
If you want your CSG to make real changes on campus, vote for the candidates who know how to enact it. Vote Hislop and Dotson for CSG president and vice president.
Victoria Noble can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.