The University of Michigan Central Student Government met Tuesday evening to discuss recent calls to remove Jason Mars as a winter 2021 EECS 370 instructorand to hear from guest speaker Dr. Martino Harmon, vice president for student life, about student life developments. CSG also voted to approve a $32,000 grant to the Inter-Cooperative Council.
While discussing new business, CSG approved the introduction of a resolution to call on the University to remove Jason Mars as the instructor of EECS 370 during the winter semester.
Jason Mars, co-founder and former CEO of Clinc, –– an Ann Arbor artificial intelligence startup with ties to the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering –– faced with sexual misconduct allegations after an investigation following complaints from former Clinc employees in February 2020.
The resolution acknowledges Mars was investigated by the University for his actions, but calls on the University to remove him entirely from teaching courses needed to satisfy degree requirements. It also implores the University to be more transparent with the public in regards to the Mars investigation and to amend its sexual harassment policies more generally.
“The claim that a man with a history of sexual misconduct should be given the ‘opportunity to earn back trust’ at the risk of the safety and well-being of UM students and community members, and at a prestigious institution such as the University of Michigan, contradicts the claim that this behavior is not tolerated at the University of Michigan,” the resolution states.
LSA junior Annie Mintun read an anonymous statement from a female STEM student enrolled in EECS 370 explaining why Mars should not be allowed to teach at the University this semester.
“It’s no longer good enough to show up to class and try my best,” Mintun read. “I have to stress about making other lecture times work or trying out flipped classroom formats that I struggle to pay attention to so I can avoid uncomfortable encounters with Jason Mars. However, it’s not my responsibility to avoid these uncomfortable situations. They shouldn’t even be there in the first place.”
The resolution was approved to be introduced with unanimous consent.
Later in the meeting, Harmon introduced himself to CSG and gave an overview of goals for the future, including the winter 2021 semester, as well as reflections and lessons learned from the fall 2020 semester.
Harmon noted concerns with quarantine and isolation housing on campus and addressed developments to improve quarantine conditions. Harmon said one of the most challenging parts of the fall semester was figuring out how to make the quarantine and isolation spaces comfortable for students.
“The quarantine isolation space, certainly a lot of lessons learned there,” Harmon said. “I would say early on, we were not consistent in providing the best quality experience that we could. I mean, no one wants to be in quarantine and isolation, but we had to really double down on a commitment to change that experience.”
With new, hotel-inspired amenities and improved communications, Harmon claimed that students who experienced the new quarantine conditions agreed some improvements have been made. “Many of (these students) said the experience was better, certainly not perfect but definitely better,” Harmon said.
Harmon also discussed overall increased safety measures — such as stricter restrictions for breaking rules— for students on- and off-campus, highlighting concerns with off-campus gatherings that may be more difficult to centrally control. He also emphasized the administration’s hope that students will act responsibly according to public health guidelines.
“We are enhancing our safety compliance enforcement in the residence halls and off campus, and that’s challenging, especially off-campus, because people are inside,” Harmon said. “So we’re really, again, counting on students to make choices and do the right thing to keep the campus safe.”
Regarding student and faculty COVID-19 vaccinations, Harmon said he is concerned about the initial numbers of students interested in receiving the vaccine when it is readily available. He guessed that only around 50% of students had filled out the vaccination BlueQueue questionnaire.
Harmon also emphasized his sympathy for students who struggled last semester and reiterated the importance of caring for each other.
“It was a difficult, difficult semester for everyone, particularly students. And there were a lot of bumps and bruises and lessons learned, but I’m really proud though of students that really champion the Wolverine Culture of Care,” Harmon said.
During the community concerns portion of the meeting, ICC General Manager Nick Coquillard joined others in calling on CSG to lend a grant to the ICC — the organization overseeing U-M student housing co-ops — due to budget shortages from pandemic-related issues.
Rackham student Julian Tabron, ICC President, presented his appreciation for ICC programs and their ability to positively impact both the U-M community and the world if funded properly, highlighting ICC’s inclusivity.
“I think it’s really important to understand that we represent a movement and a larger community and we serve not just our own members, but we send out our leaders and educate them to serve the world,” Tabron said.
The vote was held at the end of the meeting along with a presentation from several CSG members: LSA and Kinesiology junior Amaya Farrell, LSA junior Sam Burnstein and Rackham student Spyros Kasapis, all who live within ICC.
Co-authored by Farrell, Burnstein and Kasapis, the ICC presented a motion requesting the allocation of $32,000 from CSG for the ICC in light of pandemic-related financial losses. Canceled summer programs, 136 canceled ICC housing contracts and other financial factors have caused struggles for students living in ICC housing and the staff who take care of them, according to the presentation.
“We have allowed all immunocompromised students out of their contracts; we have allowed all international students out of their contracts,” Farrell said. “And that is something that Ann Arbor landlords have not done. We are not like the landlords. We are students that are living in our houses.”
Mintun discussed the difficulty of individually providing ICC-housed students with adequate COVID-19 relief and care due to financial aid restrictions.
“Us supporting (ICC) is so much more meaningful than us trying to find the right people to give our money to (and) … we tried to fund the cost of testing for students,” Mintun said. “We could only give $25, because otherwise it would impact students’ financial aid statements. That means when we give money to help students we need to give it to an organization so that we can give enough to actually make a difference.”
The ICC’s motion passed with an overwhelming majority of 28 yeses, one no and three abstaining.
Rackham student Claire Liu introduced another motion about LSAT and MCAT test prep programs to relieve student instructors from collecting a $100 fee, because that would create issues with their financial aid packages through a $500 allocation from CSG. Without this fund, the LSAT and MCAT test prep programs could not run. The motion passed with no objections.
To close out the meeting, Burnstein expressed his gratitude to CSG for voting yes on allocating the requested amount of money to ICC.
“I think there was an incredibly important discussion that we had as a result of this motion which was around ideas of equity, diversity, inclusion, affordability, accessibility, all the things I know we all hold near and dear to our hearts,” Burnstein said. “I’m just really, really overwhelmed with joy from this motion being passed. This was months in the making and a lot of work went into this.”
Daily Staff Reporter Emily Blumberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily Staff Reporter Martina Zacker can be reached at email@example.com.
Correction: A previous version of the article incorrectly spelled the last name of a student. The funds were also misidentified as a loan instead of a grant.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Jason Mars was faced with sexual assault charges. Mars has not had sexual assault charges against him, but has faced allegations of sexual misconduct.
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