Central Student Government: Looking back on CSG’s actions this semester
LSA seniors David Scahfer and Micah Griggs' administration came to an official end last week as eMerge's candidates LSA junior Anusha Sarkar and Public Policy junior Nadine Jawad were sworn in. The second half of the Schafer term furthered the ground work from Fall, now acting on their resolutions and plans made promised.
A resolution was unanimously passed to support the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. With Washtenaw County and Ann Arbor already celebrating the holiday, the resolution aimed to be a gesture toward indigenous and Native American tribes that are still active in the state.
One of the authors, LSA senior Kaitlin Gant, said it was vital for the University to support its students.
“As many of you know, the enrollment numbers of Native Americans are scary low at this University; we don’t even show up on the pie charts at all.” Gant said. “This is one thing that the University can do to show their support for our community, especially because it’s so small and it’s so easy for us to be overlooked.”
CSG also supported the inclusion of Middle Eastern/North African as a racial category on surveys. Previously, many students would put “white” on forms, and students such as LSA senior Devin Jones said it inaccurately described them.
“In 1944, all Arabs were marked as white in the United States because whiteness was a prerequisite for citizenship,” Jones said. “To this day, they are still regarded as white. So, basically, we don’t have a count on how many Arab Americans or Middle-Eastern Americans exist in the United States; we don’t know how many exist in the University of Michigan.”
A resolution was also passed to support integrating basic Medicaid into the University Health System for University students who otherwise have little medical support.
Seeking student engagement through voting registration and Ann Arbor elections
The assembly also made strides to encourage higher participations during elections.
In hopes of integrating students within the city, Public Policy junior Nadine Jawad, a former CSG senior policy adviser, hoped to make Ann Arbor elections nonpartisan, so students could participate more.
A resolution also passed in support of making Election Day a holiday so students could have a chance to vote — this was driven by the lack of college student attendance during the November presidential elections.
Art & Design senior Abby Zrike, a CSG representative, supported this resolution, especially in light of the long lines seen that day.
“I’m in the art school, and our classes are like three hours long and I’m up on North (Campus), so they’re all in a row,” she explained. “On voting day, I was in a situation where I only had an hour to vote … if I actually had to stand in (the longer) line, I wouldn’t have been able to vote. And if you miss three classes in the art school, you fail ... so I think this is really relevant.”
A resolution was also introduced to make voter registration mandatory for freshman if they are living in University housing.
Leadership Engagement Scholarship finds other outlets
The resolution to implement a $5 student fee to support the Leadership Engagement Scholarship was passed by the body in late January. Many members of the executive board were in favor of the scholarship, though others felt it was a form of regressive taxation, and, since it's applied to all student's tuition —regardless of socioeconomic status—many felt it burdened those it aimed to aid. Currently, the scholarship is finding other ways to find its funding.
Public Policy senior Joe Shea, who is also the former CSG communications director, was in favor of the resolution, saying it encouraged more people to be involved in extracurricular activities without having to worry about the toll of unpaid positions.
“The idea behind this resolution is one of solidarity,” Shea said. “As students, we understand how expensive it is just to go here … I try to remember that for some people at this university, it is simply not possible, and that is where something like the Leadership Engagement Scholarship comes into play.”
Israel-Palestine lunch resolution
The Israel-Palestine lunch resolution, while well received among the majority of CSG representatives — passing with 18 votes in favor, nine opposed and five abstentions — received considerable pushback from the executive board, with Schafer eventually vetoing the resolution.
“Quite simply, it’s not CSG’s place to judicate on international conflicts and international issues,” Schafer said shortly before the body voted on the resolution. “Our scope is narrow, our priority, first and foremost, is to address pressing campus issues, and how students on this campus feel.”
LSA sophomore Eli Schrayer and LSA junior Gaby Roth, who authored of the resolution, vehemently argued in favor of it, stating these were issues that directly affected students on campus.
“I think this is 100 percent a student government issue, because it’s campus climate; it’s how students on campus are dealing with one another and their everyday lives on campus — people feel this every single day,” Schrayer argued. “If not here, then where is the place?”
Griggs reaffirmed her support for Schafer’s veto, saying it wasn’t CSG’s place to support resolutions of that nature.
“About this resolution, it was very one-sided, and I’m just being honest,” Griggs said. “Everything that happens on a national or international level does affect students on this campus. However, if I were to put forth a resolution that said I want to talk about police brutality and I need $200 for lunches, do you think this would have the same outcome as this resolution?”
Schrayer and Roth attempted to overturn the veto, declaring it to be unconstitutional. The override to the veto failed to pass as the two-thirds majority was not reached.
The case was then taken to Central Student Judiciary by Roth, where the court ruled Scahfer's veto to be unconstitutional since there were no regulation faults with the original resolution. The statement also points out the resolution did not seek to be as "binding" as the executive board described it to be.
"The most obvious effect of our decision today is the invalidation of an exercise of Executive power. However, today’s result cuts both ways," the case's statement concluded. "We also more clearly establish the boundaries of the Assembly’s resolution power and vitiate student autonomy. We reiterate our strong skepticism that the Assembly may nakedly compel student reports. And we preserve the Executive’s right to veto resolutions that use explicit quid pro quo conditions to bind students or student organizations."
Roth, who already held one lunch, was allowed to be compensated as well as hold more lunches until April.
Mental health town halls begin
CSG also held its first town halls on mental health on Central and North campuses. Clad in T-shirts supporting the suicide-prevention organization Semicolon Project, organizers hoped to gauge mental health in the student body.
The conversation in the North Campus town hall took into account the distance and isolation many students feel from Central Campus. LSA junior Max Rothman, a task force member, explained this phenomenon during the second town hall.
“Students on North Campus feel that they don’t have equal access to utilizing mental health resources on campus,” Rothman said. “Of the students who currently live here on North Campus and who have utilized some sort of resource here on campus, 50 percent answered yes about whether the physical distance here on campus has deterred them from utilizing CAPS.”
Sexual Assault prevention is discussed
The Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center’s training became part of the policy for student organizations hoping to receive funding from the monetary body of the student government, the Student Organization Funding Commission.
The policy asked student leaders hoping to seek more than $1,000 in funds to attend sexual assault and bystander intervention training in order to pass on to their own student organization. This process did not guarantee the fees. According to Schafer, SAPAC's bystander intervention program reached 315 students from more than 205 student organizations.
“We reached more than 315 students from more than 205 student organizations across the campus community, many of whom had never gone through a SAPAC or Wolverine Wellness training around sexual violence prevention, around mitigation of alcohol and other drug hard reduction and general risk,” he said.
CSG, along with several other student representatives from other schools, went to Lansing in order to talk with government officials about the importance of creating legislations that helped mitigate sexual assault. The body members met with Rep. Adam Zemke (D–Ann Arbor), Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D–Ann Arbor) and Sen. Rebekah Warren (D–Ann Arbor).
LSA sophomore Grant Rivas, the former chief programming officer for CSG, was one of the members who went to Lansing.
“I think that when it comes to sexual assault and sexual violence, it’s definitely a difficult conversation to have,” he said in an earlier interview. “And a lot of people who might not be intimately involved in the University or have a close relationship with colleges don’t really understand that, you know, these percentages can range to 20 to 30 percent of students at a lot of major public schools.”
CSG’s new administration
After a long election cycle, the eMerge platform — headed by President Anushka Sarkar, an LSA junior, and Vice President Nadine Jawad, a Public Policy junior — defeated the second-place Movement party by a margin of 4,179 votes.
Sarkar and Jawad were sworn in on Tuesday night, and expressed their excitement at seeing all of their representatives be elected.
"I couldn't believe the overwhelming victory, to see all of our (representatives) elected," Jawad said on the night of their win. “We just made history."
Sarkar and Jawad's plans for the next year involved some of what Schafer intended, including finding the support for the Leadership Engagement Scholarship.
The new administration is split into two initiatives-- short term campus life plans and long-term advocacy plans. Short term, as explained by eMerge's platform, focuses on day-to-day things like WiFi on the Diag and chargers in the Ugli. Advocacy plans include working to improve testing conditions and a focus on food insecurity prevention.
Correction: A previous version of this article did not account for CSJ's ruling of the lunch resolution.