The LSA Student Government held their virtual candidates forum on Thursday evening, allowing candidates for elected representatives to share their platforms. There are 17 students running to fill 15 positions as elected representatives, who get two semesters of voting rights and work on committees within LSA SG. 

LSA students can vote for their LSA SG representatives beginning at 12 a.m. on March 24 and ending at 11:59 p.m. on March 25.

Each candidate gave an opening statement, answered one question centered around diversity, equity and inclusion, and answered two questions submitted from audience members.

Many candidates spoke about their desire to improve mental health resources for students on campus and said that this problem has added urgency because of the increased social isolation and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

LSA sophomore Erica Nelson, running for her second term as an elected representative, said mental health is one of the cornerstones of her platform. 

“I have struggled since the (beginning of the) pandemic with my own mental health,” Nelson said. “I want to make it more OK to express that (students) are going through things because a lot of times professors and friends don’t necessarily know how to approach those type of situations.”

LSA sophomore Gaurie Gunasekaran, LSA SG health subcommittee chair and internal review committee vice chair, is running for her second term as an elected representative. Gunasekaran discussed her prior experience working to improve students’ mental, physical and emotional health this year.

“A few projects that I’ve spearheaded and led include the care packages for students in quarantine and isolation housing, as well as the private therapy reimbursements project and the pulse oximeter project for students in quarantine, isolation housing,” Gunasekaran said. 

Many candidates also said they hope to improve the experience of transfer, non-traditional and international students. 

LSA junior Caroline Slack, a member of the LSA student advisory council, wants to improve the orientation process for transfer students. Slack, a transfer student, said she noticed differences between first-year versus transfer orientation when talking to some of her friends who came to the University of Michigan their first year.

“(First-years) go to advising and have a wonderful discussion with their advisor … where they were able to look at all these different clubs or look at these different major programs,” Slack said. “When you’re a transfer student things feel a little bit rushed, and things don’t feel as personal, and you don’t feel like you have as much time to deliberate between the options you have in front of you.”

Many of the freshman candidates spoke about personal experiences beginning their experience at the University online. These candidates discussed ways they would implement social experiences to help freshmen bond next semester. 

LSA freshman Lydia Kado is running for her first term as an elected representative. Kado said she wants to see LSA SG create bonding activities in the fall to help freshmen meet other students.

“I plan to implement socially distanced food truck events and holiday-themed festivities, such as an LSA student government sponsored haunted house,” Kado said. “I know how important it is for our current class to meet each other and, even the incoming class, in case there are COVID restrictions downline.”

LSA freshman William Addison, running for his first term as LSA SG elected representative, said many freshmen are still figuring out where they belong on campus, which was made more challenging because of the COVID-19 restrictions this year and virtual orientation.

“We didn’t really have an in-person, face-to-face meeting with anyone who can really be classmates,” Addison said. “We didn’t really get to know the campus as well as we could have if we were COVID-free. So I will work to make more spaces and more clubs accessible in the future, either through online resources or through open spaces that are COVID free and safe.”

Daily Staff Reporter Justin O’Beirne can be reached at justinob@umich.edu. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.

To get the best stories from The Michigan Daily delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter here and our weekly newsletter here.