CSG discusses recall of SOFC chairs for application process misconduct

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - 12:14am

Members of Central Student Government gather for their weekly meeting at the Michigan League Tuesday evening.

Members of Central Student Government gather for their weekly meeting at the Michigan League Tuesday evening. Buy this photo
Claire Meingast/Daily

The University of Michigan Central Student Government met Tuesday to discuss the University budget, Giving Blueday 2019 and to debate the recall of two members of the Student Organization Funding Committee for misconduct during their membership application process. One member has been removed and the second will be debated next week.

Vice Provost for Academic and Budgetary Affairs Amy Dittmar presented on the University budget, including composition, allocation and budgetary models. Dittmar’s presentation included several comparisons between how the University collects and disperses funds versus other public and private universities. 

Topics Dittmar discussed included appropriations and how University’s affordability compares to other public universities. According to Dittmar, recent tuition increases have helped achieve affordability for many students on campus.

“We also have increasing costs because we invest in it being more affordable,” Dittmar said. “So, now this is a little counterintuitive, because we’re increasing tuition to pay for the cost, and then we have to make it more affordable. So, what it comes down to is that there’s a difference in what the sticker price is and what in any individual student might pay, and that's purposeful. That’s purposeful for us to be able to help with the affordability.”

Dittmar said the University’s $12.4 billion endowment, which is the ninth largest in the country, alleviates an addition $6,000 in costs per student on campus.

“So, if you were looking at what we use and gifts and proceeds from endowment, there’s about $6,400 that each student on average is not paying, because a donor is paying those costs and either providing the aid or they may just be paying costs; they may be paying part of your faculty salaries; they may be paying for some kind of, you know, operations or programs in the building,” Dittmar said. “Those are costs that don't have to be paid someplace else.”

CSG President Ben Gerstein presented on Giving Blueday 2019, which CSG will use as a fundraising effort to continue the Leadership Engagement Scholarship that originated in 2016. If fully funded, the scholarship would give $1,000 in need-based aid to student leaders on campus.

Gerstein said there are many barriers that can keep student leaders from succeeding on campus.

“The mission of the scholarship, (that) was created three years ago, was recognizing that there are financial barriers to student leadership on campus, whether that is balancing work with potential involvement or other needs, or the cost of dues to join an organization,” Gerstein said. “There are a bunch of barriers that low socio-economic status students face to being a student leader on campus, and it ranges from all different types of organizations.”

In addition, Gerstein presented on the importance of an assembly-wide climate demographic survey to assess diversity within the student government before yielding his presentation time to allow for members to fill out the survey.

Gerstein said the survey, and checking in on diversity in student leadership, is critical to understanding the needs of the student body.

“The Leadership Engagement Scholarship was actually born out of one of the first demographic surveys, realizing the lack of socio-economic diversity in student leadership,” Gerstein said. “The survey is really important to go out, because it allows for us as an organization — collectively not just separated by an executive branch of the legislative branch — to have a solid assessment about where we need to make our own internal improvements to the inclusivity and diversity of our organization.”

Following executive reports, the assembly discussed and confirmed five members to various CSG positions, including three students as associate justices of the Central Student Judiciary.

Included in this section was a lengthy debate on whether to recall two chair members of the SOFC following alleged misconduct during the membership application process. The first member discussed was LSA junior and Vice Chair of SOFC, Max Jones, who was accused of showing bias in the member admissions process. The Assembly postponed discussion of SOFC Chair and Business senior, Crede Strauser, to the next assembly, due to time constraints.

In September, Chair of the Finance Committee and Engineering senior Mario Galindez opened an investigation into the SOFC admissions process following the aforementioned allegations. He issued a report to CSG on his findings on Oct. 29, 2019.

According to Jones, during the blind admission process chairs reviewed each application and allocated points and comments based on the merit of the applicant. 

The alleged accusation was made based on a comment written by Jones concerning an applicant’s role as a current Assembly member, fearing the member could act as an “informant” and “try to injure the SOFC dynamic.” Following the conclusion of the evaluation process, SOFC uncovered the applicants’ identities, revealing the applicant as CSG Assembly member and LSA sophomore, Sam Braden. 

According to Jones, the comment was not intended to be used as a way of judging the legitimacy of the SOFC candidate in question.

“(The comment) was shorthand and written quickly,” Jones said. “It was not intended to be brought forward to the assembly and subsequently published to the public, as its sole purpose was to serve as a memory-jogger.” 

According to Executive Nominations Committee Chair and Rackham student Hayden Jackson, the comments made by Jones poorly reflect the SOFC admissions procedures.

“Mr. Jones claimed that he didn't mean what he (said),” Jackson said. “He told me that he meant the comments only to jog his memory on why they ranked really low and rejected assembly member Braden, that he didn't say enough about how he’d impact the campus. Instead, he discussed how he wants to bridge the gap between succeed Assembly. But colleagues, is there any way to read that statement to (make it say that)?”

Jones said issues existed within the application in question, citing problems with the methodology of connecting SOFC and the CSG Assembly. 

“I believe that the applicant was attempting to accomplish something that was outside of the scope of the committee member,” Jones said. “I believe that is the role of the ex officio SOFC members and the SOFC leadership to bridge the gap between SOFC and CSG, instead of the general SOFC committee member.”

Following an approximately 25-minute closed session, the assembly reconvened and voted to recall Jones from his position with a vote of 18 in favor of recall, seven opposed and one abstention.