Tuesday night, the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government met to hear the “State of the Campus” address from CSG President Anushka Sarkar, an LSA senior, and discuss critiques of the recent Campus Affordability Guide.
The assembly also hosted guest speakers from the Michigan Refugee Assistance Program and concerned campus bus-riders, and concluded with passing resolutions to ensure the transparency of CSG and to help fund the Career Center Suit Up event.
The evening began with a presentation from LSA junior Courtney Caulkins, an education advocacy chair for the Michigan Refugee Assistance Program, who seeks to get refugees resettled in the Washtenaw County area. After summarizing the extensive refugee process in the U.S., Caulkins went on to discuss changes in the refugee resettlement process under the Trump administration.
“The president does decide every year the ceiling for how many refugees will come into the country,” Caulkins said. “So the cap is a lot lower, and usually we don’t actually reach the cap that is set.”
President Donald Trump has set the ceiling for 2018 to be 45,000 refugees — a drastic decrease from the 110,000 refugee cap enforced under the Obama administration in 2016.
When Pharmacy student representative Ibtihal Makki asked what CSG could do to help MRAP, Caulkins responded with “speak out, make donations, volunteer, call your representatives and educate yourself.”
Sarkar then gave her “State of the Campus” address in the mode of Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. The address covered all aspects of campus life, including University sports, financial aid, campus performances, sustainability, CSG work, sexual assault and misconduct prevention and campus climate. After discussing the 40 percent increase in reported incidents of sexual assault on campus in the past year Sarkar said the reporting process should put more faith in those willing to speak out.
“When survivors speak out about the pain and abuse they’ve faced, believe them,” Sarkar said.
In regards to campus climate, Sarkar discussed campus protests in response to racist incidents; Rackham student Dana Greene taking a knee in the Diag, a swastika found in the Modern Languages Building and the possibility of Richard Spencer speaking on campus in the near future.
“Marginalized students have been dealt blow after blow this past year, but not this past year alone,” Sarkar said. “It is of utmost importance that we do not let these forces of evil and hatred divide us … And if we stand strong, then the state of our campus will remain strong.”
During community concerns, LSA freshman Elizabeth Larky-Savin asked CSG to join her in starting an informational campaign to address issues of congestion on campus buses. Larky-Savin sent out a survey to bus-riders regarding the issues, and 82.5 percent of respondents to the survey said they have trouble fitting on the buses, due to sheer congestion or particular students taking up too much room. Larky-Savin requested the assembly aid her in teaching students about bus etiquette and alternate routes they can take to avoid congestion, whether that be in an email every semester or a video at freshman orientation.
CSG Vice President Nadine Jawad went on to address the recent critiques the Campus Affordability Guide has received. The guide, released last week, has been criticized for not addressing true affordability issues, but rather suggesting cost-effective tips, such as cutting down on impulse purchases, that could only be utilized by higher-income students.
“I hold myself accountable for the writing that was submitted because I should’ve given a more critical lens to the groups that were being marginalized in the content that we put out,” Jawad said. “I think the people that went to look in that guide were looking for something different than what we gave them … The guide was in no way intended to address or solve issues in the housing market process.”
Previously, Jawad posted a comment on Facebook in response to critics, saying the Guide was the product of research on housing with the city of Ann Arbor.
“As the director of this guide, and as a first-gen student who struggles with finances and costs here, this is a misrepresentative portrayal of two years of compiling research,” Jawad wrote. “My advocacy on affordable housing started with a journey through 15+ meetings with Ann Arbor commissioners and council members as well as several meetings with U-M Housing. CSG actually helped institute a student advisory board to City Council last winter as a result of some of this research. This guide is a compilation of notes, but doesn’t erase the fear of prices in an ever-increasingly expensive city that doesn’t feel like someone like me can fit in or afford. SES and inaccessibility to low-income students isn’t a joke and is worthy of more than a string of FB comments. This is a first proactive step I, and many others, took to starting to change something. I appreciate the feedback and this is a revolving document.”
Jawad announced to the assembly she has spoken with critics of the guide in recent days, and they came to an agreement that a town hall to discuss the guide’s issues would be the most efficient way to hear all of the concerns. Jawad said a town hall would likely take place in the next week.
The final order of business of the evening was discussion of the three resolutions presented to the assembly. The first of these was a resolution to put Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center resources on the CSG website as student resources. Vice Speaker Isabel Baer, an LSA sophomore, spoke on behalf of the resolution, saying these resources are crucial for University students.
“It’s essential that resources are more accessible for survivors on campus,” she said.
The second resolution was to ensure the transparency of CSG by providing a mechanism to post their constitutions in an operating procedures manual online.
The final resolution was one to help fund the Career Center Suit Up event, for which CSG would provide $300 in transportation in order to bring students to buy professional clothing at discount prices. By the end of the evening, all resolutions had passed.