Op-Ed: Why I'm running

Thursday, February 15, 2018 - 6:26pm

I grew up the son of a single mother who put herself through college while raising two kids. I vividly remember days as a kid when my mother would take me with her to college. She expected my sister and I to go to college when the time came. We also knew, however, that there wouldn’t be much in the way of savings to pay for it. My attendance at the University of Michigan is, in many ways, made possible by a stroke of luck.

From my first days on campus as a freshman serving on Hall Council, to my time as a recruiter for the University and the College of Engineering, to my work on Central Student Government, I get up every day with the goal of trying to pay forward the many gifts I’ve been given in my short time here.  CSG has built a lot of momentum toward a more equitable campus for all. This coming school year, we must pick up the mantle and carry on that work. I’ll be fighting to earn your vote to become the next CSG president so that we can continue the important mission of promoting justice and facilitating success for students of all backgrounds.

I’ve seen firsthand both CSG’s great potential and its shortcomings. When students committed to service come together on this campus, amazing things can happen. But a culture of self-interest and division fractures the fundamental trust between CSG and students. Many students confess to me that CSG is a non-factor in their University experience. While some get by just fine without it, many others find themselves in great need of the advocacy and assistance that CSG can provide. Our leadership must be united to have an impact. That’s why I’m running with LSA Representative Charlie Bingham, a junior majoring in political science and my good friend.

Charlie and I are of the same mind when it comes to the responsibility CSG has toward the people it serves. My faith in him is ironclad, not just because we are like-minded on that most fundamental responsibility, but because he’s not afraid to disagree with me when the course of action isn’t clear.

The course of action on the issues facing our campus is rarely clear. What our campaign seeks to do is foster a discussion about the policies we believe are most important — a robust, process-oriented agenda with justice for students as our North Star. On our campaign’s website you can see our platform in its entirety. As our school makes plans to increase enrollment, we must be ready to adapt. Our team is ready to get to work for the student body, with the intent of increasing resources for mental and physical well-being, tackling academic affairs such as textbook affordability, adopting successful Big Ten measures to promote student success, improving government relations—including expanding voting and housing rights—and addressing issues of sustainability and representation that can make the campus a better place down the road. In the coming weeks, we intend to publish several policy memos so as to prove the talk about our governance goes beyond conjecture.

There are some battles that will seem unwinnable. But for our prosperity and for the sake of students yet to attend, we are obligated to rise to the challenge, to meet the problems head-on with a mind toward one day solving them. It is fruitless to identify a problem without attempting to tackle it.

When it comes to securing justice for all students, we have our work cut out for us. We also have a great deal of momentum on which to capitalize. Student government has always been the clearest way to for me to promote justice. As your CSG president and vice president, we will endeavor to serve with honor and dedication to build new programs that help people feel more at home here and reshape their relationship with the University, tear down barriers that have led to negative experiences for so many on our campus, and tackle the issues that affect us today and in the future. The strides we collectively take will determine our progress. This is our moment to define that progress.

A.J. Ashman is an Engineering Junior.