The University of Michigan recognizes many student governments, from the Central Student Government (CSG) to college-level student governments like LSA Student Government (LSA SG), Engineering Student Government (ESG) and Rackham Student Government (RSG). Unfortunately, far too many students are unaware of what these student governments do and who has been tasked with representing them.
As current elected representatives serving on the LSA SG’s Internal Affairs Bloc, we have worked extensively to examine and improve the internal functions of student government. As a result, we have a deep understanding of how these institutions work.
We know that student governments have the power to promote genuine change for students on campus. Over our time serving on student government, we have seen the incredible work that student governments can accomplish. For example, in the past few months, LSA SG has created a liaison with the Spectrum Center to advance LGBTQ+ advocacy, formed a Sexual Misconduct Response and Prevention Task Force to address sexual misconduct on campus and advocated for the unionization of undergraduate student workers.
Past student governments have also supported the renaming of the C.C. Little Science Building, now called the North University Building, pushed for the release of course evaluation data and lobbied for the renovation of the University’s recreational sports facilities.
These are just a handful of the advocacy efforts student governments have successfully pursued that have tangibly benefited the student body.
But what specifically do student governments do? They serve two prominent roles: advocacy and allocation.
As democratically elected bodies, student governments are empowered to represent constituencies to which they are elected. This can come in the form of resolutions, which are the principal form of government action. These measures can range from expressing an opinion to distributing money to initiating a program. Declarative resolutions, which voice a stance of a student government, allow the student body, faculty, University administration and relevant stakeholders to understand how students feel.
In September, CSG and LSA SG passed declarative resolutions calling to support the Lecturers’ Employee Organization’s (LEO) bargaining demands. This was a crucial step in advancing the demands of LEO, as they had faced a stalemate with the University administration. More importantly, CSG’s advocacy made space for the student voice in the discussion, which is particularly important when a lack of agreement adversely affects the student body.
Student government members also serve as important liaisons between the student body and faculty and university administration. For instance, the Office of the Dean of the LSA College sponsors LSA SG. LSA SG’s connections with this office mean that the LSA SG president, vice president, and academic relations officer meet on a weekly basis with the College of LSA academic leadership. This connection gives student government the opportunity to more directly advocate for changes and further the students’ educational interests. The authority given by students voting in elections means that student governments are given a heightened role in ensuring the students’ voices are heard.
As bodies that receive funding directly from the students — $9.19 for CSG and $1.50 for college-level student governments every semester — student governments are empowered to use their funds to promote activities and organizations that benefit the student body. One significant way this has been accomplished is by allocating funds to student organizations and initiatives. CSG’s Student Organization Funding Committee (SOFC), LSA SG’s Budget Allocations Committee (BAC) and RSG’s Budget Committee fulfill these crucial roles. This year, the largest student government allocations committee, SOFC, was allocated $515,000 to distribute to organizations. If student organizations need monetary assistance with events or activities, one of their most significant ways of receiving aid is through student governments.
LSA SG has historically allocated funding to organizations like Dance Marathon and the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC). CSG has funded student organizations that promote social justice and anti-racism through its Anti-Racism Grant. This funding gives organizations the resources necessary to function and pursue programming and events that benefit the student body.
Ultimately, the work done by student governments is based on student support. Student governments on campus require all students’ consent and active participation to function effectively. For the average student, it may seem like there is no reason to vote in campus events. Indeed, in the Winter 2021 CSG Presidential Election only 3,067 students, around 6.6% of the student body, voted. However, voting is the most effective way of ensuring that the student governments use your money appropriately. Without the engagement of all students, student governments cannot truly advance the interests of those who they are elected to represent.
Students can vote for their student government representatives from March 30-31 at vote.umich.edu.
Max Stoneman is a junior in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, Chair of LSA Student Government’s Judiciary Oversight and Election Code Subcommittee, and Vice-Chair of LSA Student Government’s Internal Affairs Committee, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter Tam is a sophomore in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, Vice-Chair of LSA Student Government’s Judiciary Oversight and Election Code Subcommittee, and an LSA Representative to CSG and can be reached at email@example.com.