Partnership between CSG and Flint Student Government moves forward

Sunday, March 13, 2016 - 7:48pm

As months of public outcry surrounding Flint’s ongoing water crisis have unfolded, the University of Michigan-Flint's Student Government and other student leaders have launched initiatives on their campus to provide resources to both students struggling with the water crisis and their community at large.

Cameron Haskins, a UM-Flint junior in Senior Molecular Biology and a senator on UM-Flint’s Student Government, said student leaders on UM-Flint’s campus are in the process of planning several long-term projects that focus on reaching out to community members who don’t have access to safe drinking water.

One such project is a rally to be held toward the end of this month with members of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor’s Central Student Government. Students plan on marching in East Lansing to advocate for the state to repeal the emergency manager laws many have cited that were largely at the root of the water crisis.

Haskins said he is grateful for CSG’s support and increased communication with the UM-Flint campus. He added before the crisis, he had not seen much collaboration between CSG and UM-Flint’s Student Government. However, since then, there has been a significant amount of communication, including a Tri-Campus Summit promoting community organizational building and activism on each of the University’s three campuses.

“Together we have more resources, more minds, more manpower,” Haskins said.

Cooper Charlton, LSA senior and CSG president, attended a tri-campus summit involving students from the University's Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses, last month. He said the event brought to light issues on the Flint campus he previously was unaware of.

“We haven’t really collaborated in the past, so I think this is one event that goes to show that we really do want to be more interactive — campus to campus — and unfortunately we felt really isolated in the past,” Charlton said during the summit. “I think just the gesture that we are collaborating is super special.” 

In addition to the rally, UM-Flint’s Student Government is working on planning a benefit concert to raise money in support of initiatives to provide needed resources to the city.

“There’s a lot of higher, recognizable artists who are donating money or water bottles to the city. If you’re willing to donate that much money, you’re willing to come play a few songs,” Haskins said.

Though UM-Flint’s administration has assured students that all water on campus is filtered and safe for drinking, Haskins said he notices a decent amount of hesitation from his peers.

“I think they have a right to be skeptical, whether they’re filtered or not,” Haskins said.

For him, he said, in recent months he's felt comfortable drinking the water on campus until he recently left a metal water bottle over break and returned to find it had been discolored and stained from the water inside it.

“Now I’m definitely kind of wary of the water,” he said.

Haskins also noted that with students’ uncertainty over the safety of the water has come an additional influx of disposable plastic bottles, which he said he finds littered around campus and which, as a result, has increased awareness and push for recycling.

“It’s not water that the city needs. It’s a new infrastructure. It’s a new governor for the state. It’s things that aren’t fixed with writing a check and it’s things that are going to take years if not decades to solve,” he said.

Haskins said UM-Flint’s Student Government has identified a need within the Flint community to support undocumented citizens. Many water, filter and testing kit distribution sites require those receiving donations to present an ID. As a result, many undocumented citizens avoid these sites and continue to drink poisonous water.

UM-Flint’s Student Government is working on setting up a water giveaway specifically designated for undocumented citizens. In addition, they plan to provide undocumented citizens with foods that research shows to help absorb lead in the body.

UM-Flint senior Abud Jondy, psychology major and director of foreign outreach on UM-Flint’s Student Government, said he is currently working with the Student Association of Michigan, an organization made up of student representatives from nearly every public college in the state of Michigan, to plan a statewide water distribution day. Jondy said he sees this collaboration as an important signal to the people of Flint that students across the state are working to help them.

On campus, Jondy said an optional class for students offered every couple of weeks focuses on keeping students up-to-date on local news surrounding the water crisis as well as providing them with important safety information.

Jondy said though the Flint community has been under significant stress in this regard for the past two years, it is nonetheless hopeful they will see improvements.

“People haven’t given up on life. People are still moving forward … they won’t stop fighting until they see something happen,” Jondy said.