eMerge executive candidates win Central Student Government seats

Friday, March 24, 2017 - 9:38pm

LSA junior Anushka Sarkar and Public Policy junior Nadine Jawad will serve as the 2017-18 Central Student Government president and vice president, respectively, according to election results released early Saturday morning.

Sarkar and Jawad ran with the eMerge party, and defeated the second-place Movement Party executive candidates Evan Rosen and Dan Sweeney, LSA juniors, by a margin of 4,179 votes —  or more than three times Movement's 1,677 votes. Art & Design senior Keysha Wall and LSA senior Lauren Kay of the Defend Affirmative Action Party came in third with 243 votes, and Better Than the Rest finished fourth with 157 votes. Student turnout measured at 17.9 percent, marking the lowest participation rate since 2014.

As no complaints were filed with the University Election Commission, Saturday's results were deemed official.

After a campaign season provoking central questions around identity and representation on campus, the party's sweeping success is truly unprecedented. Sarkar and Jawad are the first female candidates elected on the same ticket in the last decade, and the first women of color voted into office since at least 1993.

eMerge’s campaign stood on three pillars of voice, opportunity and momentum, and Sarkar and Jawad often cited their positions in CSG and other student organizations to present a ticket backed by experience. Platform points were divided into more concrete “initiatives” — such as Wi-Fi on the Diag and a student mentorship program — and long-term “advocacy” issues such as improving testing accommodations and food insecurity support. The two also plan on lobbying for the reduction of the number of exams a student can take in one day from four to three, as well as the expansion of in-state tuition from undocumented undergraduates to include undocumented graduate and non-traditional students.

Upon recieving the official tally, Jawad said she was overcome with emotion.

"I cried," she said. "I couldn't believe the overwhelming victory, to see all of our (representatives) elected, to be the first women of color ever elected to this position, and just the overwhelming amount of support we got from the community. We just made history." 

Both women agreed they would balance their short-term and long-term goals rather than focus on one aspect of their platform in their first days in office—the assembly is expected to be seated on April 4—but singled out a handful of issues: Sarkar named lobbying University Health Services to accept students' Medicaid coverage as among her priorities, while Jawad said providing free phone and laptop chargers for student use will be an immediately achievable initiative. 

Movement’s candidates pitched greater student engagement in the student governing body, but much of the attention on the party was fueled by a controversial music video it released two weeks ago. The video, featuring a rap written and performed by Rosen, attracted more than 20,000 views. Many students found the video offensive: The only scene with female students appeared in a sexualized context, and Rosen — who is white — compared himself to Black inventor George Washington Carver. Though Rosen apologized and promised to take the video down, clips are still featured on the party’s Facebook page and continue to incite debate.

eMerge also filed two complaints to the University Elections Commission against the video for featuring what it alleged to be unauthorized endorsement by football coach Jim Harbaugh. Both complaints were eventually dropped.

Rosen congratulated eMerge on their victory, and said Movement's supporters would "continue to have fun." 

"We are going to continue to improve the school in any way we can, and it was a great learning experience," he said. "I thank all of my critics as well." 

In a public Facebook post, current CSG Vice President Micah Griggs, an LSA senior, stated the Black Student Union, the National Society of Black Engineers and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated Epsilon Chapter leadership decided to formally take a “stand against The Movement Party.”

“For a CSG presidential candidate to insult the black community and address the concerns of the video as ‘a joke’, said by Evan Rosen at the official CSG debate, will not suffice and will not be tolerated,” she wrote. “If a presidential candidate who shows such disrespect to the black community is elected to serve as the representative for the entire student body, it would be a step backwards in progress that CSG has made to be more inclusive and representative.”

Sarkar said eMerge's victory proved the party could transcend the video's controversy. 

"Students on this campus are educated and aware, and they were able to see through the distractions that may have clouded the election towards then end," she said. 

demographic report released by CSG this past September found 69.8 percent of its representatives self-identify as white, 58.1 percent are male and 37.2 percent of the body comes from homes earning more than $250,000 a year. In a debate hosted Monday evening by The Michigan Daily, Sarkar and Jawad promised to better represent minority and marginalized communities on campus.

“There is no CSG bubble because we’re breaking it,” Jawad said.  

eMerge amassed endorsements including current CSG President David Schafer, an LSA senior; Griggs; the Black Student Union; the University of Michigan’s chapter of College Democrats; and the Indian American Student Association. All 38 of the party's candidates across 9 schools and colleges will be seated. None of Movement's slate featured on the party's Facebook page recieved enough votes to win representative seats. 

Reflecting on the campaign, Sarkar looked forward to unifying the campus communty around the "inspiration" behind her win. 

"You can look the way Nadine and I do, you can believe in the things that we do and fight the way we do, and be the highest student representatives at this University," she said. "As long as your work hard and you're passionate, you can be where we are."