At its final meeting of the fall semester, Central Student Government passed a resolution on mental health awareness and discussed a new policy for bystander intervention training.
The resolution called for allocating $5,000 to create T-shirts representing Project Semicolon – a national organization that aims to spread awareness about mental health. It was expedited to be introduced and voted on during Tuesday’s meeting.
The resolution sparked controversy among old and new representatives alike, who expressed concerns about how quickly it was being considered and the overall impact it would have. The resolution’s author, Max Rothman, an LSA junior, was in the hospital during its consideration but was phoned in during the meeting.
Improving mental health on campus has been a priority for CSG members over the past year. On November 1, CSG launched the University’s first ever Mental Health Climate and Resources Task Force, an initiative centered around improving mental health on campus through analyzing the data from campus-wide surveys sent out regarding the issue as well as with the introduction of town hall meetings encouraging student input.
In addition, last fall, three mental health surveys were administered through a partnership between CSG and Active Minds, a national organization with a University chapter that aims to raise awareness about mental health on college campuses through peer-to-peer interactions.
Newly-elected CSG representative Lauren Kay, an LSA senior, voiced concerns over whether the T-shirts were necessary, and suggested that CSG could channel its funds into providing more concrete solutions for students like subsidizing their medication. CSG President David Schafer, however, pointed out there were legal barriers into providing such a service for University of Michigan students as a student government.
Graduate student representative Andy Snow criticized the student body for its lengthy debate, arguing that since CSG had the funds to support the project, there was no reason to postpone its acceptance.
“Do you guys find the nitpicking as ridiculous as I do?” he asked. “Considering we have all of this money and almost every one of us ran on a mental health issues? I am blown away … we have the money; we have way more than this money.”
LSA senior Lucky Mulpuri, a CSG representative, disagreed with Snow, and emphasized the importance of the body thoroughly examining a resolution before passing it.
“We were not informed this resolution was expected to be passed today,” Mulpuri said. “Although it is admirable what the resolution is attempting to do, the way it is getting there is not how the CSG assembly should conduct. Regardless of how we fund this, this is our name on it and we want to make sure this is well funded, well thought out, and at the end of the day, it works.”
Rothman explained the intent of the resolution and its support of Project Semicolon Semicolon over Facetime.
“(The purpose of this resolution was to) create something utilized on campus on the central idea of mental health,” he said. “I figured there was no better way to do this because the Semicolon project is a simple idea and a nationally recognized initiative.”
The resolution’s authors used the results of their anonymous surveys earlier this semester – which asked students and faculty about their perspectives on student mental health – as a basis for introducing the resolution.
Art & Design senior Abigail Zrike, a CSG representative, said many survey respondents discussed the stigma surrounding mental health and difficulties they face in interacting with faculty who are weary of student experiences with mental health concerns.
“A lot of (respondents) addressed the stigma and how they don’t feel comfortable talking to teachers or even their friends about this,” she said. “And that was one of the biggest underlying issues we saw.”
After an extensive amendment process, the resolution passed unanimously with 31 votes. The design of the shirts is yet to be finalized and will be determined when CSG reconvenes in the upcoming semester.
A new initiative regarding bystander intervention training was also introduced to CSG.
Earlier on Tuesday, Schafer and Vice President Micah Griggs, an LSA senior, sent an email to the student body charging the campus community to change the culture of sexual misconduct, alcohol and other drug misuse on campus. Along with the Sexual Assault Prevention Awareness Committee, the Student Organization Funding Commission and Wolverine Wellness, the executives stated this training would help combat issues surrounding sexual misconduct at the student organization level.
According to the email, the program would be subsidized through the CSG SOFC. Of its annual budget, CSG is allocated $400,000, half of which is given to SOFC, that in turn is allocated to student organizations on campus.
The assembly passed a resolution 24-3, with 1 abstained, to increase SOFC’s budget by $6,492 from its legislative discretionary fund to $223,573.33.
In order to incentivize the training, which will focus on identifying and managing harmful situations and conveying that information to their organizations, CSG will require organizations seeking to claim more than $1,000 per semester to have at least two of their authorized signers to have undergone the training. This is part of a pilot funding policy that will go into effect in winter 2017.
“This is the first time this policy has been in place, and the impetus behind it is there is no continuation of the education program so large segments of the student body around bystander intervention or alcohol and other drug misuse,” Shafer said. “If you’re not a member of Greek Life, for example, or if you’re not a (residential adviser) or if you’re not an athlete there is no guarantee after your freshman year of going through these trainings. It’s just to incentivize folks to go to through these trainings.”
The meeting lost quorum before completing official business so the assembly was unable to discuss the four other resolutions slated for Tuesday evening. Schafer said he was profoundly disappointed in the lack of representation at their final meeting.
“I can’t say it to all of you because you’re the people that actually do your jobs and come to these meetings,” Schafer said. ”I like to think I try to inspire people with words and just induce people to actually do things, but I just don’t know if there’s anything else that I can do or members of my executive team can do.”