School of Public Health junior Aarushi Ganguly speaks at a CSG meeting in the Union Tuesday night. Sophia Afendoulis/Daily. Buy this photo.

The Central Student Government heard proposals from concerned community members about the future use of where the Fleming Administration Building used to sit, COVID-19 transmission rates and unsafe policies on campus. The governing body also discussed the CSG election on Wednesday and Thursday. 

LSA student Ava Kelsey, vice-chair of the Taking Responsibility for the Earth and Environment Subcommittee (TREES), spoke to the assembly about transitioning the former site of the Fleming Administration Building to a permanent greenspace that would include grass, benches, a fountain and open paths. Kelsey pointed out the importance of location for this greenspace.

“It would be a really good space since it’s right behind the Cube and it is (currently) concrete so it’s very hard for people to gather there.” 

TREES has been working on its vision for the space since last May. The primary goal of the space would be to reduce the University of Michigan’s carbon emissions. Various environmental clubs on campus — including Sierra Club representatives present at the meeting — released a Fleming Greenspace Letter to draw attention to their proposal and urge the University to stray away from constructing a new building in that space. 

“The Fleming Building site is an ideal location for this (green)space due to its central location on campus in close proximity to student spaces like the Michigan Union, the LSA Building, and several residence halls,” the letter read.

Kelsey suggested that making the spot into greenspace would be beneficial for the U-M community.

“If the Fleming Building site were to remain an outdoor greenspace, it would provide students with an established place to study, grab food from the Union and eat outside, admire the Cube, gather in between classes, and much more,” the letter read. 

The body then discussed the upcoming CSG election to take place on Nov. 16 and 17. CSG President Noah Zimmerman, LSA senior; CSG Vice President Jacqueline Hillman, LSA senior; and CSG Speaker Karthik Pasupula, LSA junior, proposed that a non-binding ballot should be included in the November 2022 CSG election. 

This ballot would include several options for replacing the Fleming Administration Building site, including the greenspace, as well as the option of a new University Health Services building or a dedicated student organization building. The goal would be to allow students to weigh in on what the University should do with the space. CSG unanimously approved the proposal, meaning that students will have the opportunity to vote on the measure in the CSG election. 

Rackham student Marjorie Herbert spoke to the assembly during the meeting about current U-M COVID-19 policies and the Ad-Hoc Covid Committee’s open letter to President Ono titled “COVID Isn’t Over: U-M Instructors Deserve a Safe Workplace.”

The letter pointed to issues with the University’s current masking policy, which prohibits educators from requiring their students to wear masks in classrooms. The letter pointed out that this can increase the risk for immunocompromised students or students who have loved ones at higher risks of illness and death from COVID-19 infections. Over 400 signatures were collected on the letter. 

Included in the letter was a response from Sara Holliday, the public relations lead from the Office of the President, who said “we have passed your concerns along to the appropriate people for their awareness.” After this response, Ad-Hoc Covid Committee members began reaching out to CSG and other student organizations and started the Twitter thread “Why We Mask UMICH.” At the CSG meeting, Herbert stressed the importance of requiring COVID-19 protection measures as a community.

“Individualistic solutions cannot solve a collective health problem,” Herbert said. “We need to act with the needs of our entire community to mitigate the future health effects of this pandemic and to address its interrelated and ongoing racial, climate and disability injustices.”

In a presentation to the assembly, the Ad-Hoc Covid Committee said masks have been proven to mitigate the spread and severity of COVID-19. 

“We all deserve a healthy working and learning environment,” the presentation read. “Since U-M refuses to acknowledge the continued impact that COVID-19 has on our community, especially on immunocompromised, high-risk, and disabled members, we are left to respond to this ourselves: We call on the University of Michigan to allow instructors to require two-way masking in their workplace. Should the University continue to refuse to permit instructors to require masks, instructors should be allowed to move their classes online in an effort to protect their health.” 

CSG members then clarified that 18 seats are on the ballot for the CSG midterm elections, with 20 candidates running for both those seats and the University of Michigan Police Department Oversight Committee. Zimmerman spoke about the importance of voting this fall.

“We make decisions that affect students’ everyday lives and so it’s really important for people to get involved in the process of that just like they vote in any other election,” Zimmerman said. “I consider it just as important because students give (their money) to us every semester and so having that ability to make decisions of who’s spending that, who’s organizing activities and advocacy to the administration is super important.”

For students interested in learning more about the CSG elections, there will be tables in the Michigan Union and Pierpont Commons from 12–4 p.m. on Nov 16 and 17. Students can find the Fall 2022 CSG Voters’ Information Guide on the CSG Elections website along with information on how to learn about and attend future CSG assembly meetings. 

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