The University of Michigan’s Central Student Government met via Zoom Tuesday evening and unanimously allocated COVID-19 relief money to the Dean’s Office and a Rackham Student Government micro-grant initiative for both to distribute to students in need. The Assembly also heard from LSA junior Chris Sandler, Student Organizations Committee director, who cleared up misconceptions about the roles of the Student Organization Funding Committee and Wolverine Consulting Group.
While the Assembly was scheduled to vote on a resolution to call for University Regent Ron Weiser’s (R) resignation, it was voted this week that the resolution be referred back to the Communications Committee to be revised before further discussion.
The Assembly discussed a resolution calling to create a CSG COVID-19 Assistance Fund that would operate through the Dean of Students. The fund would help students with demonstrated need in paying for rent, medical bills and classroom supplies such as textbooks and laptops. Rackham student and resolution sponsor Siddharth Chaudhari said that the money allocated to the Dean’s Office would be crucial for helping students in dire need of financial assistance due to COVID-19.
“Through some research that members in the executive branch conducted, we found that the Dean of Students was not funneling sufficient amounts of money for specific causes that we would like to see more money directed towards, and so this resolution is a step in that particular district,” Chaudhari said.
LSA junior and Representative Annie Mintun brought forth questions regarding how this donation would be different from the Dean of Students Emergency Fund as she was under the impression that the Dean’s Office already helps students with many of the same needs.
“Are you aware that the Dean of Students Emergency Fund already covers all those things — rent, utilities, laptops, wifi?” Mintun asked.
To this, Chaudhari countered that the funds already allocated by the Dean of Students is simply not enough to cover students’ needs.
“I am aware that the Dean of Students covers those items,” Chaudhari said. “However, in discussions with them, it seems to me that they are not funding requests for those items to the extent that we would like. They have prioritized certain ‘emergency expenses’ over these more day-to-day expenses, and we’d like to correct that gap in funding.”
Although Mintun suggested that the Assembly postpone the vote until they had a chance to hear from a representative from the Dean’s Office, Public Policy senior and CSG President Amanda Kaplan spoke to why she believes this fund needed to be passed tonight without delay.
“Let’s not take away from the students who within these next seven days, really, really would be impacted by it,” Kaplan said. “There’s a reason the COVID-19 fund is out, people used it and they need it right now. Let’s not sacrifice short term impact for long term change when we can do both.”
Ultimately, the resolution passed with unanimous consent.
Chaudhari thanked the Assembly for their support on the COVID-19 fund.
“I think we can all agree that money that we are sending their way will be put to good use and is in need,” Chaudhari said. “And I think that we’ve made a good move in terms of sending that money over to them today. So thank you very much, I truly appreciate it.”
Rackham student Claire Liu also introduced a motion for the Assembly to grant RSG funding so that they could offer Rackham students a micro-grant that would give “short-term financial assistance to students for essential items,” including fitness equipment, office supplies, medication or mental health expenses and parental needs such as childcare.
“Our applicants can request up to $50 to help pay for basic needs (and) essential items,” Liu said. “And so why RSG is coming to CSG is that initially they had sent out $5,000 for this micro-grant program. Within the first 48 hours of the application becoming public, we received almost $2,000 in requests, and knowing that we had only set out $5,000, we didn’t feel comfortable continuously advertising this program if we didn’t know where we would get the funding.”
This motion passed with unanimous consent.
In the last CSG meeting, the Assembly voted against approving a budget in which 48% of the budget would go to SOFC. In light of this vote and the discussion that preceded it, Sandler spoke to the Assembly to emphasize that both SOFC and WCG “work to achieve the goals of the Assembly” in regards to their funding.
Sandler also argued in his presentation that a decrease in SOFC’s budget is bound to equal an increase in inequity on campus.
“Costs attributed to the expenses that are actually covered by SOFC are high, and with less money to grant the student organizations, fewer student organizations would receive SOFC’s assistance,” Sandler said. “This means that more student orgs are required to increase membership costs. And so increases in membership costs equals a decrease in equitability within student organizations.”
This semester, the WCG — a group connected to CSG that provides advice to student organizations and that also receives CSG funding — has been given the power to fund organizations of their choosing, something they did not previously have, Sandler said. He also emphasized how important it is to continue providing the same amount of funding even during the virtual semester.
“Wolverine Consulting Group funds completely different student organization expenses than SOFC and so SOFC… will be forced to share the budget with another funding committee,” Sandler said.
Daily Staff Reporter Martina Zacker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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