The University of Michigan’s Central Student Government held its first meeting of the 11th Assembly over Zoom Tuesday night to swear in the new executive ticket and elect new representatives to assembly committees.
Public Health junior Nithya Arun was sworn in as CSG president and Engineering junior Carla Voigt was sworn in as CSG vice president. Arun and Voigt ran under the IMPACT campaign against the ORGANIZE and CHANGE campaigns.
The Assembly also nominated LSA junior Annie Mintun and Rackham student Hayden Jackson to run for the position of Speaker of the Assembly, a role that requires leading the assembly meetings. Following the nomination, Assembly representatives participated in a question-and-answer session. The nominees discussed how they believe CSG should reach out to more students on campus, what resources and assistance can be used to help students with disabilities and accommodations, and how they would address sexual assault prevention on campus. There was also a discussion on how to help amplify the voices of the Graduate Employees’ Organization in response to their strike last semester.
Mintun said her experiences as a former chair of Students of Michigan during the 10th Assembly, a committee that unites the student governments of all three U-M campuses, along with her experiences as the vice-chair of the COVID-19 task force, qualify her for the position of Speaker.
“My focus in being speaker of this assembly is to guarantee student government has individuals prepared to do important work this year and to carry on that work when we are gone,” Mintun said.
If elected, Jackson said he would also plan on reaching out more to students and hopes to see more communication on campus next year between students and CSG.
“I’m constantly learning and growing,” Jackson said. “Here in student advocacy, that we can unlock together every day, the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know and how far I have to grow.”
LSA freshman Alexander Minh Nguyen, LSA representative, was vocal about his concerns about the lack of diversity in student government, referencing the two Speaker nominees.
“I know during the election, organizations had a lot to say about opening up CSG and making it more diverse,” Nguyen said. “I want a huge gut check from everyone here. … We need diversity in Central Student Government.”
Following Nguyen’s comment, Engineering junior Talia Lamb spoke in support of Mintun’s nomination and shared how Mintun encouraged her to join CSG.
“(Mintun) actually really encouraged me to run for CSG this year,” Lamb said. “I feel like I always (dealt) with imposter syndrome and that I can’t always push myself, and she talked me through all aspects of CSG. … I knew that it was something that I wanted to do because I’m interested in helping people and being a representative for my school, but I wouldn’t have that (opportunity) if it wasn’t for her.”
The Assembly elected Mintun as Speaker.
LSA freshman Kayla Rothstein, who served as the deputy elections director, gave a brief report on the outcome of the CSG elections and shared how CSG can improve for the next election season. In the most recent election, about 6.5% of the student body voted, an increase from the 5% who voted in 2020 and a decrease from 11.9% in 2019.
“We think some of that (low voter turnout) has to do with the virtual setting but we would also love ideas and clear instructions for how to move forward in terms of Facebook events (and other items),” Rothstein said.
The meeting proceeded with the nomination of two LSA representatives, LSA sophomore Noah Zimmerman and LSA junior Joseph Lobodzinski, to run for the position of Vice Speaker. Both candidates expressed plans if elected to the position to amplify student voices and ensure transparency for both assembly members and students who seek guidance from the CSG.
LSA sophomore Vincent Pinti, LSA representative, asked both candidates how they would use their position to advance the needs of all students and move forward from “a contentious election,” referencing the resignation of vice-presidential candidate on the ORGANIZE campaign executive ticket from the CSG election following the release of a series of tweets he liked in 2017.
Lobodzinski spoke about increasing funding as well as plans to help address food insecurity on campus and said his past experiences participating in the GEO strike and working with LSA Student Government to condemn university decisions qualified him for the vice speaker position.
“I think the best remedy for (future controversies) that would be to focus on the things that we all agree on, which would make the University a better place,” Lobodzinski said.
Zimmerman said there needs to be reform in student government advocacy and more collaboration. He said his past policy initiatives with funding Counseling and Psychological Services, reforming allergy regulations in dining halls and meeting with multiple student organizations on campus make him qualified for the vice speaker position.
“We need to work together,” Zimmerman said. “In this position, as well as all positions, we need to come at this with an unbiased perspective. … We are the advocates directly from the students, so making sure that we listen to them (and) making sure that we get their priorities in order so that way we can successfully and effectively advocate the administration.”
The Assembly elected Lobodzinski to the position.
Business sophomore Ayodele Ojo, Ross representative, and Business junior Matthew Jaysen, Ross representative, were nominated to run to become the chair of the Finance Committee. The two discussed managing money and legislation to help students on campus.
Ojo described her experiences in financial literacy and management, which included meetings with different businesses in her town, managing their assets and seeing improvements in their budget. She said she would work to improve the student government’s advocacy efforts and those of different advocacy organizations on campus.
“Finance controls people’s lives; money is the universal language of the world, and as a business student, I really see how that plays into practice,” Ojo said. “That is something I just really want to help reverse the inequalities that business and finances have taken on minority and underrepresented communities.”
Jaysen said he was a member of the Finance Committee in the last Assembly and worked closely with Jackson, former finance chair, to discuss improvements in the finance committee. Jaysen described a plan on instituting a subsidized grocery service for students and social activities on the Diag, estimating that the last assembly had more than $150,000 left in the student government budget.
“I don’t think that’s acceptable,” Jaysen said. “Ten dollars of every student’s money comes to CSG, and I think it’s our job to spend it in the best way possible that affects every student. I want to run the finance committee to operate as a movie production (and) be a space where Assembly members can come and brainstorm appropriations for our funds that advance the experiences of students on campus.”
The Assembly elected Ojo to the position.
Throughout the meeting, more members of the Assembly were confirmed into chair and vice chair positions. LSA sophomore Jack Perlmuter was elected to the vice chair of the Finance Committee, Rackham student Austin Glass was elected to the chair of the Rules Committee and Zimmerman was elected to the vice chair of the Rules Committee.
Additionally, the Assembly elected Pinti to the chair of the Resolutions Committee, Rackham student Bethany VanderPloeg to the vice chair of the Resolutions Committee, Engineering sophomore Zaynab Elkolaly to the chair of the Communications Committee and Engineering freshman Maria Fields to the vice chair of the Communications Committee.
Halfway through the election process, Mintun approved a motion to eliminate the question-and-answer session for uncontested positions and to limit the questions for contested positions to reduce time spent on elections.
Additional confirmations included Rackham student Claire Liu to the chair of the Executive Nominations Committee, LSA freshman Aarushi Ganguly to the vice chair of the Executive Nominations Committee and Law student Deborah Rookey to the chair of the Ethics Committee.
LSA sophomore Erin Wade was elected as the vice-chair of the Ethics Committee, Engineering junior Talia Lamb was elected as the deputy director of the Student Organization Committee and LSA freshman Ashvin Pai was elected to the Students of Michigan Legislative Delegate.
Daily Staff Reporter Nirali Patel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.