From the Daily: On CSG and student orgs

Tuesday, March 26, 2019 - 2:59pm

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Voting for Central Student Government candidates opens Wednesday after a quietly held debate last week. The candidates include presidential hopeful Ben Gerstein and vice-presidential candidate Isabelle Blanchard of the Engage Michigan Party. They face Shub Argha, who is running for president without a party. Though the candidates all ran and debated a slew of issues, and we encourage students to vote for whomever they view as most capable for the position, this year, the editorial board has decided not to endorse a candidate.

We are mistrustful of CSG campaigns that make sweeping, underdeveloped promises for a number of reasons. For example, though MVision’s candidates won the executive seats last year, their campaign website with platform planks is no longer available online. This makes it difficult to hold the newly elected leaders accountable for the various promises made to students. The year before, we saw negligent initiatives yield a Campus Affordability Guide that was out of touch with the needs of lower-income students.

Furthermore, the Engage Michigan Party and their platform planks resemble a generic, mixed bag of half-baked ideas harvested from previous CSG campaigns. We do not see how Engage Michigan will act differently when its policies are both tepid and underdeveloped. For example, when discussing affordability, they advocate providing access to public microwaves on campus. While this may save students from buying food by allowing them to bring their own, this doesn't address the more pressing issue of food insecurity. The burden of proving whether or not this policy would effect change ultimately falls on their shoulders, and they have yet to substantiate the claim that increasing access to microwaves is a legitimate means to solve the problem of food insecurity that is endemic to many students across campus.

The weak and indirect plan to address food insecurity identified above is found in the campaign’s “Accessibility and Affordability” (or, as they called it on their website, “accessability”) unit, while similarly inadequate plans are made across each sector of their campaign. In terms of “Sustainability,” Engage Michigan refers to building a five-year sustainability plan, stating that they will “work with university officers and student organizations to build a plan that addresses the specific needs of the university and lays out clear and concise action items.” Yet, Engage Michigan chooses to not establish specific changes the University should make to become more environmentally conscious, opting instead to simply acknowledge that there should be a discussion.

While we admire the spirit and authenticity of Argha's campaign, we don’t see how he can truly implement his policy goals without a proper slate of representatives. Moreover, though we appreciate the light-hearted and personable elements of the campaign, we want students on campus to vote for candidates who warrant respect and exhibit professionalism in their campaign and their role.  

So instead of endorsing a candidate, we want to highlight the bodies on campus doing diligent work to promote positive change. For example, the Climate Action Movement has been tenacious in their efforts to demand a meeting with University leaders, risking arrest for carbon neutrality by 2030. Or the Prison Creative Arts Project, known as PCAP, which is currently hosting one of the largest exhibitions of art by incarcerated people in the country on our campus and has provided artistic resources to those locked in the criminal justice system. Or Music Matters. Or HeForShe. Or any of the other countless organizations making a valiant push to impact our University.

This is not to diminish the work of CSG, whose members are undoubtedly intent on having a positive influence on campus, which we've seen much of this year. For example, in September they passed their Buses to Ballots resolution encouraging students to vote. However, because the entire campus is allowed to vote for CSG's leaders, it elevates their importance above other equally or more effective organizations. While we don't discourage students from voting this week, we hope they see CSG for what it is: another student organization.