CSG president addresses campus race relations at Tuesday meeting

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - 12:05am

Central Student Government convened Tuesday night for their weekly meeting, discussing racially charged posters found on campus earlier in the week and the restructuring of their ethics committee.

Speaking to the posters, as well as a similar incident on Eastern Michigan University’s campus last week, CSG President David Schafer, an LSA senior,  stressed that as student leaders, CSG can have great importance on campus during distressing times. He urged the representatives to recognize their role in the community.

“Never doubt what we do truly matters and it does impact our fellow students,” he said. “And I promise you that they see us, they recognize us on campus. They hear us, hoping that we lead them, as student government can better their lives and their experiences. And that’s why we released those statements.”

Schafer also said CSG members should continue to advocate for and speak up on behalf of their fellow University students.

“It’s inevitable that not every single student on campus will agree with what we say, but that’s life,” Schafer said. “I urge all of you to continue to advocate and work to enhance the experience of students on campus. Because every single student deserves to come here, deserves to be part of a safe and inclusive community.”

During the meeting, CSG heard from LSA senior Keysha Walls and other members of the group By Any Means Necessary about the posters. BAMN is a national coalition that aims to defend affirmative action, immigrant rights and equality.

Walls told the body that they tore down posters while they were going to their morning classes.

“I didn’t want to believe what I was seeing,” they said.  

BAMN members also said they hoped to see more action from the University administration, stating the email statement sent condemning the posters was too similar in content to a statement released after anti-Islam chalkings were found on the Diag last semester. The group also told the body they hoped CSG would stand with minority and immigrant students.

Over the past week, CSG has released two statements in solidarity with Black students and the Black Lives Matter movement. The first statement last Friday was directed toward Eastern Michigan University students after racial graffiti was found on academic buildings and dorms. The second was released Monday after the posters were found on campus.

Both incidents have prompted a wave of protests on campus. As well, a previously planned debate over the merits of the Black Lives matter movement attracted hundreds of protesters Tuesday night.

Both Schafer and CSG Vice President Micah Griggs, a LSA senior, declined to comment about the Black Lives Matter protest, stating that they were both in the CSG meeting and were unaware of the outcome.

Schafer told the Daily that he hopes CSG can be a resource for students who need to be heard at the University.

“I think it’s just the idea that we are advocates for the student body and that students naturally look to us when they are feeling isolated or targeted on campus,” he said. “I think it’s really stepping up and ensuring to the best of our collective abilities that all students are having a safe and happy, welcoming inclusive experience at the University.”

Griggs said one of the first steps for the body, moving forward, is to stand against exclusionary behavior.

“I think one thing we want to focus on is taking a stance against intolerable acts on the campus,” she said. “It’s the first way we can address certain things on campus on moving forward.”

During the meeting, Schafer also addressed the recent CSG demographic report, whose findings showed ssembly is predominantly white males. He said he and CSG with be working closely with Diversity and Inclusion Chair Ayah Issa, an LSA sophomore, to take the steps toward making CSG more representative of the student body.

“We are putting our heads together on how fast we can move forward to enhance our representation of the student body,” he said.

Schafer also said the body, in conjunction with Counseling and Psychological Services, will be releasing two surveys about student mental health in early October. He said CSG hopes to work with student leaders of various mental health organizations on the surveys.

Several resolutions also passed Tuesday night, including a resolution to amend the operating procedures regarding the ethics committee and clarify its rules surrounding the expectations of assembly members. The decision came in response to an incident last semester where Students Allied for Freedom and Democracy, a pro-Palestinian group on campus, called for the dismissal of CSG representative Jesse Arm, a then-LSA sophomore.

The calls stemmed from an incident on the Diag, during which Arm was filmed criticizing demonstrators who set up mock walls on the Diag to represent the 25-foot security wall that separates Israel and the West Bank.

After a review of the incident, the CSG ethics committee recommended that the full assembly should not punish Arm.

The past administration admitted to having problems judging Arm over the unclear language of the resolution and what they said at the time was “conduct unbecoming a representative” entailed.

In an attempt to remedy this, the resolution included amendments to clarify that the accused member can testify on his or her own behalf and that the speaker and the ethics chair must both decide to accept questions and accusations filed to the Ethics Committee.

Other resolutions passed included the pilot for the College Readership Program, which will allow 500 University students at a time to have access to The New York Times archives.

Chief of Staff Noah Betman, an LSA senior, said he modified several parts of the resolution so that students will have 24 hours of access instead of 72 at a time to allow more students to have access during the trial period.

CSG also passed its budget for fall 2016 from its last meeting, with a total of $405,000.

Members also debated a resolution for a Constitution Convention, proposed at last meeting, which would create a new committee to amend the All-Campus Constitution, the guidelines for CSG’s operation. The resolution ran out of time and was not passed during the meeting.