The CHANGE campaign announced its platform and slate of candidates for the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government on Wednesday. The party consists of LSA junior Abner Santiago for CSG president, LSA junior Nicole Lin for CSG vice president and LSA freshman Dagny Weakley as their campaign manager.
CHANGE’s nine-page platform emphasizes the continuation of optional hybrid classes after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, offering students more support during the pandemic including more testing information and free vaccination of the student body, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across campus.
Santiago and Lin said they met while working for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Though neither currently hold any positions in CSG, they said they believe their experience with other organizations on campus — Santiago was in ROTC for his freshman and sophomore year, while Lin is in the Roosevelt Institute and the Student Community of Progressive Empowerment (SCOPE) — will allow them to represent the entire student body. Santiago and Lin said they aim to hold the University accountable and find creative solutions for problems faced by students.
Santiago said he wants to change the precedent that CSG presidents and vice presidents have to join CSG early in their college careers to successfully reach their positions.
“(The president and vice president) are usually groomed to reach that level, but why?” Santiago said. “I mean anybody can do it if that person feels he or she is ready to lead the student body and is able to represent the vast majority of individuals and has a plan to execute.”
Weakley, CHANGE’s campaign manager, said she believes Santiago and Lin’s drive to represent the entire student body is very evident in their platform. As a freshman, she said she feels she has been able to provide the candidates with a unique perspective given the non-traditional nature of her first year in college during the COVID-19 pandemic. Weakley said this perspective has helped CHANGE develop a campaign that is representative of all students.
“(Santiago and Lin are) hitting on a wide variety of issues from COVID to diversity to sustainability,” Weakley said. “There’s an issue (in the platform) that every person can care about and they have concrete plans for every one. I think they’re doing the most to actually enact change.”
Lin said her connection to SCOPE will help her with an initiative to change the University’s tuition equity plan for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients and undocumented students. Lin said she aims to make U-M education more accessible for DACA beneficiaries and other undocumented Michigan residents by pushing the administration to expand eligibility for in state tuition from 28 months to 40 months. This plan also includes extending in state tuition eligibility to graduates of community colleges who want to attend the University.
“(Undocumented and DACA-benefitting) students aren’t eligible for in-state tuition after 28 months post high school graduation, which is really unfair for undocumented/DACAmented students because having no finacial aid, they need time to really afford the college and apply for scholarships or save money by going to community college to get their gen eds,” Lin said.
Santiago echoed Lin’s sentiments and emphasized how important it is for the campaign platform to focus on DEI efforts. He said his experiences growing up in Los Angeles, one of the most diverse cities in the United States, taught him how to understand various backgrounds and will help him make sure he represents the entire student body as president. While the University claims to implement many DEI efforts, Santiago does not see them translating into student life.
“Everybody has a different story to tell,” Santiago said. “And so I think that’s something that really needs to be reworked here, is the DEI efforts because all I’m seeing is empty promises. … I think that’s most evident across clubs and organizations.”
The CHANGE campaign also hopes to expand DEI efforts to help lower income students and to eliminate food insecurity among students by working with the Maize & Blue Cupboard. They hope to implement a basic needs vending machine to provide food and other hygiene products for food-insecure students. Lin said she feels as though lower income students are often left behind, especially when it comes to being able to join organizations on campus.
“I also know from my personal experience that there is also an issue of dues with organizations, and that’s not the organizations’ fault as it’s the University really not being able to fund these different organizations,” Lin said. “That prevents students from joining organizations that they are passionate about because of the dues.”
Weakley said students should vote for Santiago and Lin because of their dedication and connections to the students.
“Nicole and Abner have a lot of connections to the whole student body,” Weakley said. “They’re going to be able to understand what each class needs from Michigan and try to create plans for that, and they’re already starting that. There’s going to be a wide variety of issues that everyone can care about.”
This article has been updated to include information about CHANGE’s plan for undocumented/DACAmented community college graduates to receive in state tuition.
Daily Staff Reporter Martina Zacker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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