Schafer and Griggs reflect on their time as CSG president and vice president in Daily exclusive interview
Q: You guys ran on a platform of diversity, having very specific experience with the ramifications of a lack of diversity can have on mental health. How do you see this play out over the course of your administration, particularly following this November presidential election?
David Schafer: To start, I’m just extraordinarily proud of the strides that we’ve made in working to ensure that CSG (Central Student Government) is more inclusive and representative of the student body. We commissioned the first-ever demographic report in September, which showed how much work we really needed to commit ourselves to in the future.
I think it’s a commitment that all future CSG administrations need to make, as well as the University (of Michigan) administration to enhancing the diversity of our school as well as the inclusivity and equitability. I think a public college education is the best vehicle for personal and professional advancement in the world and everyone deserves an equal opportunity to realize the ability to achieve a college degree and a college education.
And I think it’s the responsibility for each and every member of the Michigan community, regardless of what our identities are and what our background is to stand up in support for each and every member of our community. And to never forget that an offense against one is an offense against all.
Q: One thing I want to talk about is the Bystander Intervention Training through SAPAC (Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center), I just want to know, so you planned this for leaders seeking funding of — I believe — over $1,000, so what were the concrete benefits you’ve seen so far?
Schafer: I am so unbelievably proud of the work of everyone involved in the Bystander Intervention Training policy. I think special credit and honor is deserved to the folks at the SAPAC Bystander Intervention and Community Engagement Cohort Program, folks in Wolverine Wellness, specifically PULSE, all of SOFC (Student Organization Funding Commission), the Student Health and Safety Commission within CSG and all of the members who volunteered their time and gave their energies and deeply believed in this program and helped the staff throughout this past semester, and it personally exceeded my wildest expectations about how successful and impactful it would be. 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.
Being a student leader at the University of Michigan is a responsibility and it’s a privilege and we need to set the example for every student on this campus, especially younger students, right? The way in which we act, in many ways will guide their future at Michigan and will either inspire them or will turn them off, so this training imparted to a lot of student leaders the importance of their role and the importance of serving as good role models to every member of the Michigan community, as well as the importance of relaying information about consent education, about best policies and practices to reduce alcohol and other drug risk to members of their organizations and beyond. And I love to think of it like this: If we assume the average student organization has, let’s say 10 or 15 students, then this program impacted upwards of 3,000, if not more, students, and I think that’s an unbelievable accomplishment and something I deeply hope the next CSG administration will continue.
Q: You both endorsed eMerge, which was arguably the most experienced party, can you explain why that was a choice for you?
Micah Griggs: Well personally, I endorsed Anushka (Sarkar) and Nadine (Jawad) as the executive ticket because I felt that those two people would be the best for the organization, including their CSG experience. They’re well-versed on a lot of issues on campus, they’re inclusive in their work and their speech and I think they will move the organization forward.
Schafer: I’ve just come to so deeply admire personally and professionally Anushka and Nadine. Both of them are some of my closest friends on campus and I’ve seen the work they’ve done and they’re two of the best change makers that I’ve ever met, not only in my time at Michigan, but throughout the course of my life. I know for certain, and I’m sure I speak on Micah’s behalf as well on this point, that Anushka and Nadine will never quit, especially when the going gets tough. I honestly meant it when I said that a vote for them was the best CSG-related vote that any student at this University would and could ever cast. And I’m extraordinarily proud of those two for the campaign they ran, the issues on which they ran, and I look forward to bearing witness, albeit from the sidelines, to the great work they’ll do next year
Q: The DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) plan still isn’t favored strongly among members of the student body. As you are the main liaison with the administration, can you speak to student concerns that you’ve heard over the past year regarding ambiguities within the plan or any sort of things you’ve heard?
Schafer: I think one of the major questions that students have raised, at least from my eyes, is the timeline. I think some students have the perception that we’re waiting five years, or the University administration is waiting five years to implement everything, and I don’t believe that’s necessarily the case. I think, obviously, you have short-term initiatives and you have long-term initiatives. Real change is hard and it takes time, but that’s not to say that students should not continue to hold the administration accountable, because they must, and they should.
Q: You guys advocated very strongly to get a student on the Board of Regents. There still isn’t a student on the board, so can you tell us a little about what that journey was like for you and what barriers you came across?
Schafer: Of course I’m disappointed it didn’t happen, but again, it’s a long-term initiative that takes time. So at the start of the year, with an indispensable foundation set by the previous CSG administration, we were able to push through an addition to the Regents’ bylaws, 701, that discusses the importance of student participation in University decision making, and guarantees that such participation will be sought and encouraged by key decision makers and other University administrators, including the Board of Regents. I think institutionalizing that language is something tangible that future CSG administrations can grasp and point to and say, ‘listen, students need to be involved in key decisions at the University.’ For example, we used that language to advocate for the inclusion of student presence on the provost search advisory committee. So to have that student is big because that’s a key University decision. Going forward, it is my continued hope that students work to strengthen student engagement with the Board of Regents because the Board of Regents is unique among its peers in the Big Ten and across the country for not having a student presence on the board.* So maybe if we had a little more time, but I’m proud of the groundwork and foundation we laid and I believe that it will happen one day.
Q: So we wanted to talk a little bit about the Leadership Engagement Scholarship. Some students raised concerns over the $5 fee, and I just want to learn a little about your experience with them and a little about the process of going through the article and how will the scholarship move forward in the upcoming year?
Griggs: Well, firstly, the Leadership Engagement Scholarship was created to award emerging and established leaders on campus who face financial barriers to getting involved on campus and we’ve participated in a variety of efforts to increase funds for the scholarship. We’ve done outreach to donors and participated in Giving Blue Day, so we were thinking of other objectives and ways to increase funding and we did take the route of advocating for a student fee. We’ve decided to work with the administration to increase funding for the scholarship, so going forward we’ll be working with the administration to find ways to increase funding for the scholarship. We’ll still be participating in Giving Blue Day and doing outreach to alumni.
Schafer: For me, the leadership engagement scholarship is without a doubt the proudest thing I think we were able to accomplish this year. We’ve raised more than $180,000 over the course of this year alone and that money, as well as the money yet to come from other alumni and donors, as well as, like Micah touched on, the administration, will better the lives of student leaders for generations to come, frankly for the life of this Michigan. And it’s just the belief that every student regardless of who they are and where they come from deserves the ability and the opportunity to have those same memories and to have those same Michigan experiences that so many of us have been afforded during our four plus years on campus.
Q: Also, we had the Student Support & Action Committee. They aim to work with bias response (the Bias Response Team) to promote positive messaging. I was just wondering how did it work out, what were the outcomes of this committee?
Schafer: The whole goal of that is obviously not to replace what the Dean of Students does because we’re incredibly thankful for the work of their office, from the Bias Response Team perspective, but really to help them. So the whole goal and impetus of this committee is, it’s maybe to address and to mitigate the impact of those harmful messages by spreading positive messages. I believe this is the case but I remember talking with senior administrators, both of us, after the racist and awful fliers were posted in September and October and they said ‘legally, we cannot remove the fliers.’ Students are not compelled or bound by the same legal obligations or restrictions that administrators are.
Q: After you graduate, how do you hope to stay connected to the University? Do you plan on still being involved with the campus?
Schafer: I think I’m going to maybe not come back for a few years. No, I don’t say that sadly, because as the old cliché quote goes, I think absence makes the heart grow fonder. My ultimate goal from this year is to best understand what this role and this position has given me and what I’ve learned from it.
*Editor's note: Previous investigations from the Daily to the structure of the Board of Regents for other Big Ten schools and across the country find that the University is not alone in this, but that other institutions do have student members on their boards.
These are the highlights. Watch the full video here.