Change At Michigan, a Central Student Government campaign focused on increasing the organization’s connection to students, announced its candidacy for the March election Wednesday night.
In an interview with The Daily, Rackham student Austin Glass, presidential candidate of Change At Michigan, said CSG has done work to better the experiences of students on campus. However, he said the organization should do more in the realm of advocating the needs of students to the University of Michigan administration.
“In our best moments as an organization, we do really great things on behalf of students: we advocate for changes to policies that the University is promulgating that do not have the students’ best interests in mind and, in particular, not the best interests of students who don’t traditionally have a voice in administrative structures,” Glass said. “We need to be doing a whole heck of a lot more of that, and I think that we have the capacity to do a lot more of that.”
Glass previously served as the CSG Speaker of the Assembly. He is currently a Rackham representative and chair of the Rules Committee.
Change At Michigan’s platform will center around combating sexual misconduct on campus and achieving carbon neutrality; increasing diversity, equity and inclusion; wellness; and student engagement.
In the same vein, LSA sophomore Megha Jain, vice-presidential candidate of Change at Michigan, said one of the party’s goals over the course of the campaign is to engage as many students as possible, which will hopefully improve voter turnout. Voter turnout in the March CSG election has historically hovered at approximately 19 percent of the student body.
Jain said she is hopeful students will share their opinions with the party so they feel like they have a voice and are compelled to vote.
“People are not going to vote for a government they don’t feel like is representing them, they don’t feel like is doing anything for them, so I will feel like our campaign did something successfully if that voter turnout rate goes up,” Jain said. “That means that we engaged with students. We engaged with organizations that felt like they had some skin in the game when they were looking at our campaign. They saw a policy that really spoke to them and that affected them and they felt like they had the ability to have a voice.”
Jain does not have previous experience with student government on campus, though she pointed to her work with the Roosevelt Institute, Camp Kesem, Michigan Community Scholars Program and Grace-edu. In marketing for Change At Michigan, the party has branded itself as a group of CSG “outsiders and insiders” committed to reorienting the organization’s role.
Both Glass and Jain noted their experience working with the University on policy. Glass serves on the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality, which is creating a list of recommendations for the University concerning climate change, and Jain noted her work on sexual misconduct policies.
Jain said she hopes CSG can elevate student voices to ensure the University is working in their best interest. She highlighted the importance of this for communities whose voices are normally overlooked.
“In this last year, I’ve seen that I’m not happy with a lot of the things that the University is doing, and I’ve looked for a lot of opportunities to be involved in changing that,” Jain said. “There are so many things that students have the power to be doing and to be changing, but it’s really just how do we actually make that connection between the administration and between Central Student Government, and how does CSG represent the entire campus? How does it in actuality and in policy represent groups that don’t really get the representation that they need at the University?”
Glass said he is optimistic that Change at Michigan will bring in students who understand the potential impact CSG can have and are prepared to leverage that power in favor of students. He also noted the importance of having students with this mindset in the executive branch.
“There are a lot of students who have come through CSG in the last two years who don’t take students seriously, who don’t take our role on campus seriously and don’t take the privilege that we have of being able to meet with administrators and speak on behalf of students seriously,” Glass said. “We aim to change that.”
With the announcement, Change At Michigan joins Mobilize, which announced its candidacy last week, in the race for control of CSG. Parties vying for CSG seats will campaign on campus and participate in a debate leading up to the election on March 25-26.
LSA sophomore Sujin Kim, party chair of Change At Michigan and current representative of CSG, said the strength of Change’s members is what sets them apart from other parties in the race.
“We have deep experience, we have people from within the Assembly who are quality people who know what they’re doing, who have a record of advocating to the administration in a way that is appropriate, and we also have a lot of people from different organizations, even from outside of CSG,” Kim said. “It speaks to our team, our policy and it speaks to what we are here to do that we are surrounded by such quality people. And I think that really is something that people should think about.”
News Editor Alex Harring can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.