From the Daily: Vote eMerge

Monday, March 20, 2017 - 10:54pm

With the upcoming Central Student Government elections, four parties — Movement, Better Than the Rest Party, Defend Affirmative Action Party and eMerge — vie for the CSG presidential and vice presidential positions. Of these parties, The Michigan Daily Editorial Board believes that the eMerge party candidates, LSA junior Anushka Sarkar and Public Policy junior Nadine Jawad, are the best picks for these offices. Between their extensive involvement in CSG and other campus organizations, their concrete plans to increase diversity and inclusion on campus and their innovative plans to increase community engagement, eMerge has the strongest ideas of all the parties and possesses the skills needed to implement these plans. The Michigan Daily Editorial Board endorses eMerge presidential and vice-presidential candidates Sarkar and Jawad and is confident in their abilities to serve in the best interests of our campus community.

Both Sarkar and Jawad have immense experience that would allow them to represent the student body in a holistic way. The candidates' knowledge of the processes and capabilities of CSG would allow them to quickly get to work when starting their term. While serving on CSG, Sarkar has spearheaded efforts to expand the number of counselors at Counseling and Psychological Services. Jawad served as a policy adviser on CSG and has worked to support the needs of students with affordable housing. Their commitments to CSG — as well as the work they’ve done as leaders in CSG — are testaments to their preparedness for these positions and their abilities to create tangible change on campus.

The eMerge party would best represent students with marginalized identities across campus. Sarkar and Jawad have shown throughout their proposed policies that they are highly qualified to construct diverse and inclusive dialogues on campus. For example, their critique of the limitations of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan proposed by the University of Michigan earlier this academic year offers hope for those unsatisfied with the document.

We are also confident that eMerge’s platform points regarding diversity would be the most successful at impacting campus diversity. The candidates have acknowledged that their one-year terms will never be enough to fully tackle diversity across campus and in CSG, but they have put together a concrete, manageable platform that recognizes the struggles of students of underrepresented minorities and the past difficulties in addressing these issues. Platform initiatives, such as working with University Health Services to accept Medicaid health insurance or creating a specific mentorship program for non-traditional, first-generation and multilingual students, show their commitment to diversity in the long term.

The Defend Affirmative Action Party and Movement would not be as successful in representing student groups. The Defend Affirmative Action Party, which has shown an engagement with a diverse group of students on campus, fails to represent a majority of students. The radical methodology of DAAP, such as its collaborations with the By Any Means Necessary organization, alienates a large group of students who do not see such tactics as worthwhile.

While Movement candidates have expressed care about the needs of minority students, throughout their campaign they have displayed a lack of empathy and have failed to listen to students of color. The Movement candidates have instead pandered to the campus community in an attempt to create a positive image for their campaign, without truly incorporating voices of minority students. For example, their “Divide and Prosper” initiative delegates a tangible initiative to recruit students of low socioeconomic status to students enrolled in the School of Education, rather than creating an initiative within the scope of Central Student Government itself. 

In addition, when asked how Movement plans to represent students of color, LSA junior Dan Sweeney, Movement vice presidential candidate, mentioned that he does, in fact, listen to communities of color on campus. However, the only example he could give was during three weeks out of the year while campaigning for CSG. We believe that engaging with students for three weeks out of the year as a campaign tactic is far from enough, and a long-term dialogue is key. We believe that eMerge bridges the ideologies of Movement and DAAP by bringing together and representing students of differing identities.

In addition to their work with CSG, the eMerge party candidates have demonstrated a significant amount of engagement with organizations across campus and within the Ann Arbor community. CSG would benefit from Sarkar and Jawad’s strong leadership experiences and their abilities to manage and organize different groups and interests. Sarkar founded Wolverine Consulting Group as part of CSG that partners with struggling student organizations on campus, and Jawad co-founded Books for a Benefit, a non-governmental organization that advocates for the importance of literacy, which has since spread to other campuses across Michigan.  

eMerge’s platform emphasizes its commitment to having a student voice in the Ann Arbor City Council, creating ties between our University and the city that houses us. The party also emphasizes the need for unity and engagement across all University of Michigan campuses, including our satellite locations in Flint and Dearborn. The willingness to work with all students, in the Ann Arbor community and at our other campuses, shows eMerge’s dedication to improving students’ experiences across all University campuses.

The lack of community engagement demonstrated by the other candidates and their platforms gives us reservations. While Movement’s platform includes engagement initiatives, many are one-time events, such as a Thanksgiving food drive or their “Mental Health Wake Up” initiative. These initiatives don’t actively engage students on a daily basis at the University, instead delegating involvement to specific days throughout the year. While many of DAAP’s platform points would support various marginalized communities at the University, its focus on initiatives from an activist perspective will pose problems as its tries to implement them. Furthermore, the leaders of DAAP are most certainly passionate about the issues they present, but their emphasis on national and international issues may limit the scope of students’ engagement in their platform. eMerge’s platforms parallel the positives that come with DAAP’s platforms, but are more inclusive toward students and members of the Ann Arbor community.

The Michigan Daily Editorial Board enthusiastically supports eMerge and the incredible ideas presented in its platform. The combined experience of the candidates, which would allow them to represent campus diversity, would create a culture shift that is desperately needed within CSG. We hope the goals of eMerge are accomplished and that Sarkar and Jawad can bring our campus together to support all students. Be sure to vote in CSG elections on March 22 and 23 at http://vote.umich.edu.