The University of Michigan Central Student Government met Tuesday evening and held discussions with leaders from La Casa and Climate Action Movement, two major student organizations on campus.
The meeting kicked off with a statement from Matt Sehrsweeney, Rackham student and member of CAM. Sehrsweeney briefly summarized the group’s work over the past few weeks and provided information on upcoming additions to CAM’s fossil fuel divestment commitment in partnership with the University.
“Last week, a couple of us from the Climate Action Movement presented to the Board of Regents articulating basically our final case for divestment,” Sehrsweeney said. “And that basically focused on three core tenets, the first of which is complete and swift divestment from fossil fuels and companies engaged in exploration extraction transportation of fossil fuels. The second is reinvestment in industries and initiatives engaged in a just transition. And the third is the institution of the creation of a new body which would be a standing committee for responsible investing.”
In recent years, CAM has pushed the University and the Board of Regents to divest from fossil fuel industries as well as commit to achieving University-wide carbon neutrality. After sustained student activism, in February 2019, University President Mark Schlissel announced the creation of the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality to establish a plan for the University to achieve carbon neutrality. The PCCN released their draft recommendations in December 2020.
Additionally, a resolution of support from CSG for divestment in fossil fuels under these requirements will be published sometime next week, Sehrsweeney said.
A CSG resolution to stand with La Casa, a campus Latinx advocacy group, in their efforts to protest against the new Victors Award was also reintroduced and eventually passed. LSA junior Rebeca Yanes, La Casa external director, said La Casa is asking the Office of Enrollment Management to release data regarding Latinx enrollment and the Victors Award, which was implemented at the same time the previously existing Provost Award was discontinued.
This concern was formally outlined in the resolution presented before CSG, which calls for the release of this data and formation of a plan to stop the decrease in Latinx enrollment.
“The demands that are outlined on here are mostly for the University, mostly for the Office of Enrollment Management, to release data regarding the Provost Award for Excellence and demonstrating commitment to La Casa leadership to meet with us and discuss with us,” Yanes said.
Yanes said that the correlation between the establishment of the Victors Award and the stark decrease in Latinx student enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year is extremely concerning.
“The biggest differences between these awards is that the Provost Award met full need for out-of-state students while the Victors Award is an award of $8,000 and the Victors Award is not need-eligible, so it’s merit-based,” Yanes said. “When those numbers (regarding Latinx enrollment) were released, we realized that there was a 16% drop in first-year Latinx enrollment, so that was huge compared to previous years, which Latinx enrollment has been increasing since 2014.”
Yanes clarified the connection between the award and Latinx enrollment. According to Yanes, since Latinx students come primarily from out of state, the changes in the award have directly and disproportionately affected their demographic, according to La Casa’s stance.
“Since 2014, a majority of the Latinx first-year enrollment has come from out of state,” Yanes said. “So an award like this, that drops by at least $20,000, would definitely impact Latinx students.”
Additionally, Yanes said she thinks the Office of Enrollment Management seemed unresponsive and unphased during their meeting with La Casa. They will be meeting again Monday, March 1.
“They weren’t responsive in that meeting,” Yanes said. “They didn’t really show any movement or concern about the next enrollment.”
U-M spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald wrote to The Daily in a January email that the University and OEM share La Casa’s concerns with the decrease in enrollment of Latinx students, but said further analysis is needed to understand factors such as the pandemic that may have contributed to this decrease.
“The university is aware of La Casa’s concerns and shares La Casa’s goals of greater college affordability and diversity in our student body,” Fitzgerald wrote. “While La Casa points to the changes in financial aid awards as the reason, we believe more analysis is needed to fully understand how many factors — most notably, the COVID-19 pandemic — may have influenced enrollment decisions … rest assured that the university is committed to doing this analysis.”
LSA junior Annie Mintun, LSA representative, voiced her support for the resolution. She said that the change in scholarships would directly impact out-of-state students and therefore disproportionately affect Latinx students, whose out-of-state enrollment has decreased since the introduction of the award.
“This change in scholarships was a change that would impact out-of-state students, and especially students who would qualify for need-based financial aid,” Mintun said. “So we think that it’s significant that this change in award happened at the same time as this decrease in out of state first-year Latinx student enrollment.”
Mintun also said she thinks it is important to stop the decrease in Latinx enrollment.
“We would like the (University) administration … to work with La Casa to publish a plan on how OEM will work to increase Latinx enrollments so we don’t see this decrease become a trend,” Mintun said.
In a question-and-answer session, Mintun also noted the University originally implemented this new award because it was more financially sustainable, meaning that less money will likely be devoted to the Victors Award than the previously existing Provost Award.
“University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald has come out and said that they made this switch because they believed the Provost award was not financially sustainable, meaning that the University is expecting to put less money towards this,” Mintun said.
CSG also briefly introduced and discussed a proposal from the Students for Clean Energy asking for a $5,000 donation for a block ‘M’ solar array at the entrance to North Campus on Bonisteel Boulevard. They did not vote on the proposal this week.
The request was proposed by Engineering junior Cole Ammerman in an attempt to show the dedication of U-M students toward achieving carbon neutrality. The idea of the solar array is to provide the University with public, easily accessible information about the University’s continuing effort to achieve carbon neutrality.
“The monitoring system that will be used to collect solar energy data will be available online and via smartphone app,” Ammerman said in a statement to CSG. “Students and professors would be able to download the data… So in theory anyone could utilize the app and download its data to spread awareness about Michigan’s carbon neutrality efforts.”
This article has been updated to correct Sehrsweeny’s position and quote.
Daily Staff Reporter Emily Blumberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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