Student Advisory Council seeks to promote safety for students

Thursday, January 25, 2018 - 6:02pm

As the Student Advisory Council begins its second full year in operation, the council looks to recruit new staff while maintaining an agenda that continues to promote safety and convenience for students in Ann Arbor.

SAC was formed last year through a memorandum that establishes relationships between SAC and Ann Arbor public schools, student government, University of Michigan leadership and City Council. LSA senior Jeremy Glick, former chair of the Student Advisory Council, said the SAC’s first year focused primarily on setting up a structure that would help them efficiently meet the needs of students.

“It was a formative year,” Glick said. “We figured out what worked and what didn’t work. We learned to front-load the agenda, which means getting the research out of the way before summer and coming back in the fall ready to make recommendations. This is a structure that I will be recommending going forward this year.”

SAC’s annual report released in December calls for the election of a new chair and secretary. Glick admits while he is formally stepping down as chair this year, he will continue to serve in an advisory role until he graduates in May. SAC consists of two members from the undergraduate community appointed by Central Student Government, two members of the graduate community and two members of the local high school community, with a City Council member acting as a liaison. Glick said while SAC focuses heavily on collegiate affairs, they are also concerned with matters affecting all students in Ann Arbor.

“It is important to note that we are not a student organization,” Glick said. “Our primary role is to advise City Council.”

SAC also made suggestions for the safety of students regarding proper street lighting in the neighborhoods surrounding Hill Street and Packard Street and the Kerrytown neighborhood. Glick expressed his passion for this project.

“As a student, this is a huge issue,” Glick said. “It pertains to the safety and security of our community. The street lighting is definitely something that I would like to see through.”

Street lighting in Ann Arbor is not a new concern. In 2015, the City Council lifted a moratorium on new streetlights and voted to spend $200,000 on new streetlights in October 2016. However, Glick and other SAC members hope their report will help alleviate crime and encourage pedestrian safety on campus.

While the Student Advisory Council only meets once a month for an hour or two, they spend time coming up with concerns to address organically, as well as researching issues like the street lighting situation in order to provide quality recommendations. Glick says SAC spent a lot of time surveying the neighborhoods of Hill Street and Packard Street, taking pictures of street lights. These pictures, alongside the SAC’s recommendations, were featured in their annual report.

While SAC works in relationship with City Council through a liaison, Glick and Councilmember Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, highlighted the autonomy of SAC. Grand said she works almost purely as an interface between the students and the city.

“My role on the Student Advisory Council is City Council liaison,” Grand said. “This means that I do not vote, but I am present to provide council’s perspective on matters of interest and to act as an intermediary between the two groups. If there is an issue that comes before the city that is particularly relevant to students, I may also bring that issue to a meeting and ask for direct feedback from SAC members.”

The Student Advisory Council primarily determines their agenda on common student concerns. Glick said there were no demands placed on SAC by the city.

“After the disciplinary actions taken by the (Intrafraternity Council), city administrators were interested in our views on drinking and fraternities on campus, but realistically we are able to set our own agenda,” Glick said.

Amid recommendations for increased street lighting, the Student Advisory Council also investigated transportation issues for graduate students who don’t live on campus. SAC met with a representative from parking and transportation at the University as well as exploring some bus data from City Administrator Howard Lazarus. Lazarus said if the issue did come up, the city would respond accordingly.

“We would consider working on some infrastructure-related issues,” Lazarus said.

Grand says she hopes going forward, SAC will continue to provide a platform for student issues on a more regular basis.

“It is my hope and expectation that the SAC will begin to weigh in on matter of mutual concern on a more regular basis,” Grand said. “More specifically, I hope that the SAC may provide direct input to City Council on issues such as pedestrian safety/lighting, affordable housing and transit. A student council will also be critical as we consider changes to out zoning and begin to implement the recommendations of the Hillard Heintze police audit.”

In addition to the discussion on transportation, SAC also internally discussed hiring a part-time student communications coordinator. Glick stressed an agenda to hire a part-time student communications coordinator was definitely not set in stone.

“It’s very preliminary and completely up to the incoming council, but we are interested in hiring someone who could actually maintain a website for us where students could go and look for information about city issues, whether it be emergency alerts, utility, maintenance, voting, etc.,” Glick said.