The University of Michigan Central Student Government met via Zoom Tuesday night to talk with Amy K. Dittmar, senior vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, about the University’s 2020-2021 budget.

Dittmar spoke about the University’s endowment in comparison to that of other universities in the country. She said though the University’s endowment is one of the top 10 in the country, on a per-student basis, the University is in the top 100. 

Dittmar also highlighted that the 1.9% tuition increase this year stemmed from the increased costs created by the COVID-19 pandemic, uncertainty about enrollment and the amount of funding received from the state of Michigan.

The $50 COVID-19 student fee that was added to the tuition this year is being used to cover costs such as testing, safety kits and personal protective equipment, Dittmar said. She also mentioned that continuation of the COVID-19 fee depends on the duration of the pandemic and should be withdrawn once some of the big costs brought by the pandemic cease.

Dittmar also spoke about how the University limits itself to curbing its expenditure from approximately $12 billion in the endowment to about $400 million per year. She mentioned that this is primarily to ensure that the University maintains the ability to draw this amount from endowments in each passing year. The decision to raise tuition amid the pandemic was criticized by students, who felt the University was being tone deaf to student needs as many faced financial turmoil as a result of the pandemic.

“We are conservative (with endowment spending) and it has to do with this belief that we want to be the great University of Michigan next year, in the 10 years, 20 years and 50 years,” Dittmar said. “A lot of these discussions are really about do I spend today, or do I spend in the future.”

Dittmar also highlighted the extent of student involvement in the formation of the University budget. She spoke about a student advisory board that she meets with on a monthly basis to increase communication between the administration and the students.

The Assembly confirmed LSA senior Daniel Kim as Wellness Commission chair, LSA senior Danya Pollack as chair of the Commission on Affordability and Accessibility and LSA junior Tyler Watt as elections director.

The Executive Nominations Committee debated the confirmation of LSA freshman Rainbow Huang as deputy elections director. Members of the committee were concerned about Huang’s lack of experience in CSG as a freshman, despite her involvement in activism and political extracurricular activities in high school. The committee ultimately provided a neutral recommendation on Huang’s confirmation.

Two members of the committee said they felt they should provide a recommendation on the candidate based on their merits, not on if anyone else was interested in the position. CSG General Counsel Austin Glass, a Rackham student, wrote to Assembly members during the meeting that not approving Huang would essentially be choosing no one for the job instead of Huang, who he said he believes to be qualified. Other members disagreed with that statement, saying they felt the Assembly had been “backed into a corner” recently with approving nominees because no one else expressed interest in the role at the time.

LSA junior Annie Mintun voiced her opposition to class standing being a component of the committee’s decision in Huang’s ability to prefer the role of deputy elections director.

“I think it is disgusting that the Executive Nominations Committee would consider not having someone be the deputy director just because they are freshman,” Mintun said. “I have looked through her resume. I think she is extremely qualified.”

LSA senior Sam Burnstein, chair of the Executive Nominations Committee, emphasized that the committee’s recommendation relied on Huang’s lack of experience in a college setting, not her class standing.

“What every member of the committee discussed … had nothing to do with her age, it had everything to do with her qualifications,” Burnstein said. “And what I was trying to emphasize by saying that she was a freshman is that her experiences are from high school, they’re not collegiate-level experiences.”

In response to these concerns, Huang said she felt she was qualified despite her age based on previous experience in leadership and politics. She said that age was just a number and did not feel like it should be a reason for her not to be approved.

The Assembly unanimously voted to confirm Huang as deputy elections director following the debate.

Daily Staff Reporter Navya Gupta can be reached at itznavya@umich.edu.

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