CSG amends resolution to investigate Regent Ron Weiser’s 'conflicts of interest', calls for more DEI requirements for student organizations

Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - 12:21am

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Courtesy of Martina Zacker

The University of Michigan’s Central Student Government met virtually Tuesday evening to discuss and pass amendments calling for the resignation of Regent Ron Weiser (R), introduce a resolution calling for more diversity, equity and inclusion requirements for student organizations and hear from Associate Dean of Students Sarah Daniels.

After being first introduced at the CSG meeting two weeks ago, the resolution calling for Weiser to be removed from the Board of Regents was reintroduced Tuesday for a second read with amendments made by the Assembly.

LSA junior Zackariah Farah, sponsor of the resolution, spoke about the resolution and two major amendments that had been made since its last reading. The first new amendment calls for an investigation into Weiser’s alleged conflicts of interest with the University, particularly regarding his founding of McKinley Associates Inc., a real estate investment company with properties in Ann Arbor.

“The main conflict of interest that we know about would be his ownership of McKinley Associates Incorporated, which is one of the largest property management companies in the city of Ann Arbor, which easily could affect many of his decisions,” Farah said.

University spokespeople and Weiser himself have claimed to The Daily that Weiser is no longer active in the company. While McKinley operates many properties in the city, it does not market themselves as undergraduate student housing, but the company has also previously told The Daily they do lease their properties to some U-M students.

The second amendment Farah discussed changed the language of the resolution from calling for Weiser’s removal to calling for his resignation, since CSG cannot call for a recall as a nonpartisan non-profit. The resolution states that should Weiser refuse to resign, CSG will continue to support his official censure by the Board of Regents and U-M President Mark Schlissel.

In his comments to the Assembly, Farah referenced the acquittal of former President Donald Trump.

“I think it's very important now more than ever that we pass this resolution after the former president was acquitted by the Senate,” Farah said. “We want accountability, we're not going to get it unfortunately on the federal level, but I think it's our duty as students to get that accountability on the level of government that we have the most power and control over, which is the University’s Board of Regents.”

Farah also noted that, as of Tuesday night, the only contact information for Weiser on his Board of Regents page is a phone number for McKinley. Farah said this was another issue to add to the list of reasons why CSG should call for Weiser’s resignation and support his censure.

Several other regents also list their office number as part of their contact information, though all other regents also include their individual U-M email address.

With the new amendments, the resolution calling for Weiser’s resignation passed with unanimous consent.

A resolution was then introduced calling to enact requirements to ensure equity and inclusion in student organization admissions and participation. These requirements would apply to student organizations that request more than $250 from two CSG-run initiatives, the Student Organization Funding Committee or Wolverine Consulting Group. 

The resolution calls for organizations with a selective admissions process to waive member dues that exceed $50 per semester for students experiencing financial hardship, to have a faculty adviser present during the entire admissions process and to allow for admission to the organization in both the fall and winter terms.

Rackham student Hayden Jackson, a sponsor of the resolution, spoke to the Assembly about why these changes are crucial for the 69 student organizations that have been identified as selective by the resolution’s authors. 

“Often organizations make assessments about the ‘professionalism’ or ‘right fit,’” Jackson said. “But likely included in the admissions process with good intentions, unfortunately studies consistently show that this is often unconsciously coded language that actually means an assessment of whether a student looks, speaks and has a life like the existing members of the organization. With the demographics of a place like the University of Michigan, you can easily imagine what this ends up being.”

While many Assembly members voiced support for the resolution, some also said they were concerned about the logistics behind requiring a faculty adviser to be present during admissions. CSG President Amanda Kaplan, a Public Policy senior, said having a faculty adviser present might actually worsen inequities.

“You require all the advisers to be present for deliberations, but that can be hundreds of hours quite literally,” Kaplan said. “If you need to pay them because they can't be really affiliated with the University, where are you going to get the money from? And if Wolverine Consulting Group doesn't have that money — which as of right now they do not — are you going to force the members to pay that?”

Farah echoed these concerns, saying that if an organization did not want to comply with the rules, they might just stop applying for funding and raise dues instead.

“If a student org simply does not want to meet these criteria and change their rules, and this is my question, could they not simply stop applying (for) SOFC funding and just raise their dues, making the organization even more exclusive than it already was?” Farah asked.

SOFC Chair Taylor Lansey, an LSA senior, said she does not expect the implementation of these diversity, equity and inclusion requirements to cause organizations to stop applying for funds.

“We have carried out things like (these requirements) in the past and (there) have not been trends of organizations dropping off from applying due to the implementation of those requirements,” Lansey said. “I actually took a look at our history and (aside from) maybe one or two orgs dropping off — not citing why they stopped applying — there was not a drop off in applicants due to the requirements.” 

After discussion, there was unanimous consent to refer the resolution back to committee for discussion at a future meeting. 

Following last week's CSG vote to allocate $25,000 of CSG’s money to the Dean of Students office to be used as COVID-19 relief for students, Daniels, the associate dean of students, spoke about how that money as well as the rest of the Dean of Students Emergency Fund will be allocated.

“The DOS emergency fund is designed to assist students with unforeseen expected temporary hardships that they may be experiencing,” Daniels said. “We provide students with funding for a variety of different resources. It kind of depends on what the situation is, so we handle these on a case-by-case basis.”

Daniels told the Assembly the emergency fund is being used more frequently, presumably because of the pandemic.

“And this year, our latest accounting (...) was over 200 students,” Daniels said. “And much of that was, of course, due to the pandemic. But (...) we are only limited to some degree by the fund we have available.”

Because the fund is limited, Daniels said it is common for the Dean of Students’ office to work with partners across campus, such as the University’s schools and colleges, to assist with the funds. In the past, the office received help from organizations like CSG.

“We've had donor funds and others have stepped in and assisted, which has been a blessing. And CSG has helped in the past too, which is phenomenal,” Daniels said. “So you all can know that your funds that you've allocated in the past (...) have helped students directly, and I can attest to that.” 

 

Daily Staff Reporter Martina Zacker can be reached at mzacker@umich.edu


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