From the Daily: Vote newMICH

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - 9:35pm

This Central Student Government election season has brought new debate to the often-discussed issues of mental health, diversity and inclusion and student voice. All three CSG parties — Your Michigan, the Defend Affirmative Action Party and newMICH — have commendable platforms that seek to address these issues using a multitude of means. However, newMICH’s specific plans for the most important issues facing campus today stand out among the three. LSA juniors David Schafer and Micah Griggs, running for president and vice president respectively on the newMICH ticket, are experienced, socially aware students, with detailed plans to improve CSG. The Michigan Daily’s Editorial Board endorses the newMICH candidates in this year’s CSG elections.

The four core tenets of newMICH’s platform — student voice, connection, well-being and safety and opportunity — outline their plans to implement change. Though their platform is ambitious, Schafer’s experience as a student assistant with the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives and Griggs’ experience working with the Black Student Union and as an Intergroup Relations facilitator shows their ability to work with groups dedicated to diversity and inclusion. This experience and their time working as LSA representatives in CSG demonstrate firstly that they are committed to these issues. Secondly, it shows  that they have worked with administrators through these groups to accomplish goals like increasing minority enrollment, establishing international student mentorship programs and requiring CSG members to complete Integroup Relations training. However, many of their plans hinge on the crucial approval, and subsequent funds of the University’s Board of Regents.     

The Board of Regents is empowered by the state of Michigan’s constitution to supervise the University and direct expenditures. To have a greater voice on campus, newMICH advocates for a student representative on the board. Your Michigan told the Daily that a student representative is not necessary, because the CSG president currently has an allotted time to present at every Board of Regents meeting. Though this is a compelling rebuttal by Your Michigan, we believe creating a position for a student on the board would allow this representative to focus solely on the board, to be active in discussions with the regents and not just to serve as a presenter of information, and to provide a second voice for students. The student representative would actually sit with members of the board and participate in dialogue, unlike the CSG president.

The state constitution, beyond creating eight elected, voting positions for the regents, additionally only specifies that the University president sits on the Board of Regents as an ex-officio member. It does not specify about any other ex-officio members, so having a student reresentative is undoubtedly contestable. However, even if newMICH does not succeed in winning a student spot on the Board of Regents, Schafer and Griggs have demonstrated they have working relationships with administrators that will help them enact changes regardless of whether there is a student on the board.

Nonetheless, in light of this risk, it is notable that CSG has a budget of $400,000 per year, which means many items on newMICH’s platform are achievable only if they receive funding from the Board of Regents. This funding will most likely only come if there is student representation by a non-voting student member. Without representation by a student representative, it is unlikely that newMICH will be able to fully execute many of their goals.

All three parties do share a number of plans, most notably the demand to increase minority enrollment and improve diversity and inclusion on campus. Your Michigan plans to “improve recruiting and outreach efforts to underrepresented high school communities...” Similarly, newMICH wants to “improve the relationship between UM and Detroit Public Schools.” Both parties are aware that change in this area is difficult to achieve within CSG, but the relationships newMICH has built with administrators, such as Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones, show us they are already on the way to working toward these goals.

DAAP’s commitment to social justice is laudable, but their ideas will be very difficult to achieve in practice. DAAP proposes to eliminate the use of the SAT and ACT in favor of a system similar to the Texas 10 percent plan, which guarantees any student in Texas in the top 10 percent of their high school automatic admission to public universities in the state. Though the SAT and ACT have been shown to exhibit a racial bias, this plan will be extremely difficult for DAAP to implement without a working relationship with the administration, which they currently lack and have stated they have no interest in starting.

All parties agree mental health resources need improvement, and we appreciate this collective desire to change the status quo, but newMICH is the only party that plans to fully expand both Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center and Counseling and Psychological Services to North Campus. In 2014, CAPS launched their embedded model, which places counselors in specific schools and colleges to meet an increase in demand for mental health resources. Though three of these counselors were assigned to North Campus schools in July 2014, the need for mental resources for students on North Campus still has not been met and newMICH’s plans best address this discrepancy. Additionally, newMICH candidates have also stated that they have a good relationship with the director of CAPS, a connection vital to a productive CSG-CAPS partnership. At the CSG debate hosted by the Daily on March 11, newMICH spoke of their plans to add 11 counselors to decrease the University's 1:1,300 student to counselor ratio to 1:1,000. The party’s specific plan to improve mental health resources demonstrates knowledge of the system and what exactly needs to be done that is not found among their opponents.

While each party stressed the importance of preventing sexual misconduct, we found that newMICH’s plan has the most specific goals. In addition to expanding SAPAC to North Campus, newMICH wants to work to change SAPAC’s 24/7 crisis hotline to a 24/7 in-office presence. In contrast, Your Michigan wants CSG to serve as an “ally” to SAPAC to create culture shift and plans to expand the Panhellenic Peer Educator program to other clubs and sports teams. We appreciate both initiatives, and would hope that any winning party would try to incorporate their opponent’s ideas. An interesting addition to the mental health conversation on campus came from DAAP. At the CSG debate hosted by the Daily, they suggested the increase in mental health problems came directly from the lack of an inclusive environment on our campus. DAAP aims at solving mental health by addressing campus culture issues first.

newMICH has the candidates and the ideas to make a change on campus. They will advocate for better mental health resources, more effective resources for victims of sexual misconduct and an increase in student voice on the Board of Regents. A CSG governed by newMICH would make incremental changes in the right direction.