CSG proposes revision to Regents bylaws to increase student input

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 - 1:25pm

The University’s governing body is considering incorporating more student input before the body makes impactful decisions on their behalf.

The Board of Regents, which makes university-wide decisions along with President Mark Schlissel, is seeking public comment on a revision to its bylaws that calls for more student participation in decision making.

The revision was proposed by Central Student Government, and would reinstate and update a section that was deleted in February 2011.

Regents can currently gauge student opinion through several mechanisms, namely CSG reports and public comments during their monthly meetings, as well as input from E. Royster Harper, vice president of student life, who actively engages with campus. 

CSG president David Schafer, an LSA senior, said the proposal was not motivated by any specific recent events at the University, but rather that he and CSG were motivated to propose the revision because they believe student voices are important when making University-wide decisions.

Schafer’s platform for CSG president emphasised student participation, in particular calling for adding a student to the Board of Regents. Currently, no external action has been taken toward that goal, which would likely face some legal hurdles. 

“We just wanted to reaffirm the importance including student voices in University matters and decisions,” Schafer said. “It was all of us coming together saying ‘yes, we acknowledge that student voice is important and going from there.” 

Negative student response recently prompted at least one change in a decision by the regents, over the name of the William Trotter Multicultural Center. A new building for the center was slated to be renamed the Bernstein-Bendit Hall after Regent Mark Bernstein (D-Ann Arbor) and his wife donated $3 million to it, but student backlash prompted the decision to be revoked after Bernstein withdrew his donation

Students argued replacing Trotter’s name would erase his legacy as a prominent Black activist and co-founder of the Niagara Movement, a civil rights organization founded in 1905. 

Bernstein said at the time that students and others on campus told him replacing the name of the only building on campus that bears the name of an African American would be a loss to the University. 

“There are hundreds and hundreds of buildings on this campus and only one – Trotter – bears the name of an African American,” Bernstein said. “This is wrong.”

Schafer said he and rest of CSG were glad to see the change.

“It’s an important step forward in the recognition that student voice is key to running of the University,” Shafer said. “We’re excited to work with the appropriate stakeholders to going forward.”

The revised Bylaws will be discussed at the Regents’ meeting in September. In the meantime, any public comments can be addressed at publiccomments@umich.edu.