CSG discusses recall of SOFC chair, funding The Michigan Gayly

Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - 11:11pm

Members of Central Student Government discuss providing funding for student organizations on campusduring their weekly meeting at the Michigan League Tuesday evening.

Members of Central Student Government discuss providing funding for student organizations on campusduring their weekly meeting at the Michigan League Tuesday evening. Buy this photo
Kelsey Pease/Daily

This week’s Central Student Government Assembly discussed funding for The Michigan Gayly, CSG elections and the proposed recall of the Student Organization Funding Committee Chair. 

The Assembly began with a discussion of the resolution proposed by Sam Braden, CSG Assembly member and LSA sophomore, to fund The Michigan Gayly, an LGBTQ publication on campus. Previous discussions regarding this resolution centered around concerns about using legislative discretionary funds to assist a student organization instead of redirecting the group to the Student Organization Funds Committee, a subsidiary of CSG created for this purpose. 

While Assembly members agreed The Gayly creates value on campus, some worried about the precedent set when the Assembly provides funding for a student organization. Braden explained that one obstacle for The Michigan Gayly applying for funds through SOFC is that SOFC functions by reimbursing organizations for the funds they apply for based on documentation of how the money was spent. Because the Gayly is unable to supply the initial funds, even temporarily, they are seeking an initial grant from the Assembly. 

LSA sophomore Maddi Walsh expressed concern about the lack of mechanisms to oversee how the money is spent, as well as worries that funding the organization directly would detract from SOFC’s role. 

“I think there is an issue with giving out funds and not having any oversight mechanism,” Walsh said. “That’s not to say that I don’t think The Michigan Gayly would use these funds responsibly, but from a codified perspective and from a precedent perspective, that’s something that should be put in place to make sure our actions can be held accountable.” 

Zeke Majeske, Engineering senior and ethics vice chair, spoke in support of the resolution as a one time action until CSG can figure out a codified way to support student organizations which are not supported by the current reimbursement model of SOFC. 

“We should give the money to them now, because this is an organization we can probably all agree should get this money, and then work to address this problem further on and reject any other requests that come directly to us for this type of funding out of hand until we get a system in place,” Majeske said.  

The resolution passed with 30 votes in favor, zero votes against and one abstention. 

The Assembly next discussed two amendments to a proposed resolution to align CSG elections with the calendar year. The first amendment, which Assembly members voted to incorporate, was to change voting for president and vice president elections to ranked choice voting. The second amendment, which also was incorporated, was to alter the current ranked choice method of voting for Assembly representatives. 

Assembly members then debated the resolution as a whole. The main motivation behind the resolution, which would shift the major CSG election from March to November, is to mitigate the loss of momentum that occurs during the summer for newly elected officials. 

Before assembly members voted, Ben Gerstein, CSG president and Public Policy junior, who expressed his initial support for the resolution, put its implications in context with the upcoming 2020 presidential election and the debate to be hosted at the University. He recommended assembly members consider waiting to put this policy in place until the following year. 

“We need to be intentional about what we aim to introduce to campus climate at that time,” Gerstein said. “Is it beneficial for our organization to be focused on elections instead of voter registration? … CSG elections historically have been pretty contentious. Do we want to introduce more contention to campus or more unity to campus?”

The resolution did not pass, with 14 votes against, nine votes in favor, and three abstentions. 

The Assembly then discussed the recall of Crede Strauser, SOFC chair and Business senior. The conversation was centered around allegations from the previous CSG meeting regarding misconduct in the SOFC member application process. Much of the misconduct was surrounding conversations regarding Assembly member Braden’s application to join SOFC. 

Hayden Jackson, executive communications chair and Rackham student, spoke to why the Assembly should consider recalling Strauser, citing a lack of transparency, Strauser’s delay in sharing documents requested by the Assembly and alleged comments that Braden would join SOFC “over (his) dead body.”

“I think the answer of what we should do from the actions we’ve seen is very clear already,” Jackson said. “Not only did he preside over advised application process, he tried to cover it up by denying documents to someone who had every right to review them … There’s a culture of dishonesty and a lack of transparency as indicated by last week’s hearing and the evidence provided this week.” 

After giving an opening statement, Strauser was questioned by CSG members. He apologized and took responsibility for initially denying requests to share SOFC documents with Finance Chair Mario Galindez, citing a lack of understanding of the compiled code resulting in his lack of certainty over his authority to share the documents. Some expressed skepticism over the fact he failed to release the documents until the day an ethics investigation was launched, but he assured the Assembly he did not intend to defy their request. Strauser also denied ever making the comment “over my dead body” regarding Braden. 

In his final comment, Strauser said the mistakes were a learning experience and spoke to his hopes to improve the relationship between SOFC and the CSG Assembly. 

“I stand before you to one hundred percent acknowledge, accept, regret and apologize for the mistakes that were made that were fully in my inaccurate understanding of the compiled code,” Strauser said. “Going forward, I think there’s a huge opportunity at this time to improve the relationship with the Assembly. Sometimes it takes a wake up call. I think we’ve all had a wake up call in this situation.”

Following a closed session in which Assembly members discussed Strauser’s defense, the motion to recall did not pass, with 15 votes against, five in favor, and three abstentions. 

The remainder of the meeting was spent discussing a resolution by Braden calling for the College of Literature, Science and the Arts to reform their International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement test policy to address discrepancies in which credits are eligible to fulfill distribution requirements. The resolution was referred to the Resolutions and Communications Committees. 

The Assembly also began discussing a resolution by LSA sophomore Sam Burnstein to solidify steps toward carbon neutrality as the University undertakes its building projects. Due to time constraints, further discussion of this resolution, as well as a resolution to create CSG funded testing preparation resources, were postponed to the following meeting. 

Voting for fall CSG elections opened last night at midnight and will remain open until Thursday, November 21, 11:59 p.m.