Executive candidates talk representation, Greek life at CSG-sponsored debate
Parties running for executive positions on University of Michigan Central Student Government met Monday night and discussed their platforms in a debate hosted by CSG in the Rogel Ballroom of the Michigan Union. The presidential and vice presidential candidates from MVision, MomentUM, True Blue, eMpower, aMplify, Let’s Keep Michigan Time, Defending Affirmative Action Party and Serfdom USA discussed their party platforms and their goals for the upcoming year. CSG’s prior successes and failures, issues of discrimination, and campus affordability were some of the topics addressed at the event.
The debate began with each party introducing themselves and their platforms. Engineering freshman Noah Tappen, Let’s Keep Michigan Time’s presidential candidate, began by thanking CSG for inviting all the parties to participate in the debate. His comment was in reference to The Daily only hosting five of the larger parties to participate in the debate held last Thursday.
“I want to thank you for having me at this event, as you may know, me and two of the other running parties weren’t invited to the first debate — it’s a shame,” Tappen said.
The first half of the debate consisted of questions formulated by CSG, and each party was allotted one minute to formulate a response.
Another one of the parties who was not at The Daily’s debate on Thursday was the Serfdom USA party. Presidential candidate Liam Stewart, an LSA junior, explained the parties platform to establish a “feudal society” at the University.
“I support diversity,” Stewart said. “I want nobles to be representing the LGBTQ community, I want nobles to be representing ethnic and racial minority communities, I want nobles to be representing non-gender binary communities. I want nobles to be representing every single aspect we have on campus.”
The first question posed to each party asked what they saw as CSG’s biggest successes and disappointments this past year. MVision praised last year’s CSG for demonstrating what diverse leadership looked like. However, LSA sophomore Izzy Baer, MVision vice presidential candidate, pointed out the continued need to talk about “invisible identities” in order to create a campus supportive of the student body.
“I think one of the biggest improvements we can draw on is talking about and creating policies for invisible identities on campus — survivors of sexual assault, students of low (socioeconomic status), members of the LGBT community,” Baer said. “These identities are not as seen within our assembly right now because they aren’t talked about. Something we can improve on is talking about policies and cultures surrounding these groups on campus and with that, that’s how we create platforms and policies that positively affect them.”
MomentUM lauded voter registration as one of CSG’s greatest successes from the past year. However, vice presidential candidate Charlie Bingham, an LSA junior, pointed out the tokenization of minorities as one of the largest failures in CSG.
“I think the biggest failure of CSG is we still, in this organization, have a culture that makes students of color feel that they are only wanted because of the color of their skin,” Bingham said. “We still have representatives sitting on this assembly right now who have done incredible work who feel they have been used in this election to get votes — that is not acceptable.”
The debate went on to focus on what each party viewed as the most relevant issues facing the campus, which were also within CSG’s power to control.
Let’s Keep Michigan Time called on CSG to use their influence on campus to speak out against issues like gun control through forms of organized protests.
“CSG has so much power, CSG can organize protests not just at the University but of Washtenaw County and the area to keep us safe,” Tappen said. “Gun control isn’t a huge issue just for school shootings but suicides too. Gun control is by far probably one of the biggest issue affecting us and CSG has the power as an organization to be protesting, going against the norm and saying what we really want.”
The Defend Affirmative Action Party followed on the theme of national issues and emphasized their stance on raising awareness about issues of discrimination, immigration and sexism with CSG influence.
“The school needs to send out a warning if ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is on campus, they need to protect our profs, they need to protect our students that are remanding residence,” LSA senior Lauren Kay, the Defend Affirmative Action Party candidate, said. “It’s unacceptable that they do not already do things like this.”
The next question asked about the kind of relationship each party sought to have with the University administration and Board of Regents. Law School student Matthew Williams, vice presidential candidate for aMplify, discussed their party's hope to leverage their ties with the administration in order to establish a partnership, which would then allow them to pass resolutions.
“If we’re going to move forward, we’re going to move forward in partnership with the administration,” Williams said. “They have power to block our initiatives, and we have to be able to partner with them.”
However, Kay had a less diplomatic approach to dealing with the administration. The party emphasized their desire to ensure the University complies with the wishes of the student body, and not vice versa.
“How are we going to work with the administration?” Kay said. “The administration has to work for us first. We do not deny our own power, the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement, the various campus protests of the 1960s and 1970s the students took action and power into their own hands and didn’t ask for the administration to give them permission.”
The final CSG-penned question asked parties to consider what could be done to shift campus culture and keep students safe from discrimination.
MVision responded by initially praising the past year’s CSG for implementing mandatory bystander intervention programs for student organizations, but also noted there was still room to expand the program’s reach.
“Right now CSG made a great first step by expanding bystander intervention training to organizations on campus, but I appreciate what DAAP mentioned about microaggressions that exist not just for the student body but in our facility, which is why we should extend bystander intervention training not just for student body but to faculty,” Baer said.
The second half of the debate centered on questions from audience members, who submitted their questions through Twitter or index cards.
The first question from the public involved the candidates’ thoughts on Greek life, and how they felt it needed to be reformed. LSA sophomore Marianne Drysdale, True Blue vice presidential candidate, praised fraternities and sororities for the mentorship they provide their participants, and hopes to implement something similar in CSG. However, she also acknowledged endemic sexual assault and alcohol consumption.
“Greek life is an incredibly important part of our University and few other organizations are able to provide the same networks to first-year students as Greek life is able to do,” Drysdale said. “However, there are problems of sexual assault, hazing and drinking culture that need to be rectified. True Blue looks forward to working forward to working with IFC (Interfraternity Council) and the rest of the council to improve these issues on campus.”
The conversation then shifted to issues of campus safety and whether or not parties would feel comfortable with cameras in residence hallways.
While the majority of the parties were against having cameras in residence hallways due to issues of privacy and the additional legal consequences they may add for students engaging in underage alcohol consumption, eMpower presidential candidate Lloyd Lyons, a Public Health senior, felt cameras would help negate harmful behavior because student would know they were being recorded.
“When it comes to cameras in residence halls, when you sign the housing contract it is considered a public space,” Lyons said. “It is not intended to be a 24-hour surveillance system, it is for looking out for students who are being affected by negative things.”
In regards to improving mental health and food security options on campus, many parties agreed an expansion of current Counseling and Psychological Services is necessary. True Blue emphasized this by building on work which has already been done.
“Sustainable change comes from building on the work that has been done,” Business junior Arathi Sabada, True Blue’s presidential candidate, said. “That means implementing the recommendation of mental health (task forces).”
Elections will run this week on March 21 and 22, from midnight Wednesday morning through the end of Thursday.