As the term of the Eighth Assembly comes to a close, The Daily sat down with the former Central Student Government president, vice president and communications director to discuss their experience in CSG over the 2018-19 school year.
This school year’s executive team led CSG to pursue many different initiatives, pieces of legislation and events across campus.
MVision’s platform included more meetings on North Campus and monthly town hall meetings, making the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center more accessible, and increasing minority identity representation on campus and more.
The administration worked to improve student health and wellness through adjustments to the MDining policies by listing all of the ingredients in foods, as well as placing EpiPens in each dining hall and training employees on how to properly use them. The team also introduced the implementation of health and wellness vending machines, and launched CSG’s inaugural Mental Health Awareness Week in March which included events such as a town hall and a Diag day.
The administration also focused efforts on preventing sexual misconduct on campus through initiatives like the Survivor Empowerment Fund and events like “Empowering Survivors: A Forum on Sexual Misconduct Policy.”
The Survivor Empowerment Fund provides finances to groups on campus striving to educate the University of Michigan on sexual assault prevention and aiming to empower survivors. These funds are allocated toward costs for bringing guest speakers and general programming.
The two-hour forum comprised of professional presentations on issues related to sexual misconduct, such as the Sixth Circuit Court Ruling and the proposed Title IX policy. Prior to the event, CSG worked with other departments to spread knowledge on how to write comments and notify the necessary parties as a result of sexual misconduct.
The executive team further worked on bettering inclusivity and equity on campus, specifically through the announcement of the Narratives, Equity and Transformation Plan.
“The program, led by CSG executive diversity officer Lloyd Lyons, aims to provide student organizations with a clear, individualized overview of key areas of improvement as well as a toolkit to help those organizations achieve their full potential,” a CSG information release stated.
Former CSG President Daniel Greene, a Public Policy senior, spoke about how valuable he believes the NET plan is for all students and organizations on campus.
“The first thing many students do on this campus to make this big campus small is join a student organization, and until we can improve the inclusivity of the culture mentality behind student organizations … we’re not actually going to see the improvements on the DEI front,” Greene said.
In regards to housing, the executive team introduced the Housing Management Guide last semester — now the most visited page on the CSG website according to Greene — which provides students with specific information to assist them in finding the best housing options to fit their needs off-campus.
LSA junior Isabel Baer, the former CSG vice president, believes one of the largest impacts they had on campus was through the Big Ten Voting Challenge. CSG pursued social media campaigns, made two public service announcement videos on voting and contributed to the Buses to Ballots initiative to help students get to and from polling stations. In 2018, voter turnout at the polls in the University campus precincts tripled in comparison to the 2014 voter turnout.
“I think (the turnout rate) proves that it’s not that students don’t want to vote and are actively not, it’s more a feeling of not knowing where to go or not caring, especially with the midterms,” Baer said. “I think that was really important moving into a general election that’s happening and the first time Michigan is considered a purple state officially, so … I hope students can continue and obviously will continue as well to do that promoting.”
In addition to the larger initiatives the administration pursued, former Communications Director Lydia Barry, an LSA senior, believes the smaller initiatives they accomplished are just as important, specifically ones in which CSG had one-on-one interactions with students, such as the recent Division of Public Safety and Security event registering students for emergency alerts.
“I think every time a student interacts with us in that way or we just want a suggestion from them or just want to give them breakfast during finals or something, I think that leaves a really positive impression with them,” Barry said. “I’ve seen students who you know, come to get a snack or something, but then they end up saying ‘I have this idea’ … So I think CSG being that middleman is really important.”
Despite the work they were able to accomplish, Baer touched on some of the challenges she faced in CSG. She described, as a part of the executive branch, the difficulty of knowing when she should and should not speak about certain topics during the legislative meetings, as she wanted to give voice to CSG representatives.
“I’m personally always tempted to speak up during the legislative meetings and give my opinion, but it’s really important to remember that’s also representatives’ space and that’s where they’re going to be talking about issues that face them or the resolutions that are going on,” Baer said. “Sometimes it is our place be like, ‘Maybe think about it this way’, but it’s always difficult to just learn to just listen and not say anything.”
Greene and Baer further spoke about other policy areas they are still working on despite the end of their term. Specifically, they are pursuing improving access to free graduate-exam prep courses and open-access textbooks written by professors at the University. Greene also highlighted his continued work to expand Community Dialogues, an initiative to provide forums for communities on campus in response to bias instances.
“Whether that forum is more reflective or action-based, and whether or not that forum is small groups or a large group, we have built blueprints and we’re polishing it now, so these communities in the future … can utilize this model to have an effective response to anything that might happen on our campus or even across our worlds,” Greene said. “For example, with the New Zealand terrorist attack, that is an example of a crisis or incident that any community members could then go to this resource to help provide a healthy productive conversation response and also a safe space.”
Greene has been working toward increasing inclusivity on campus as well as improving diversity in University admissions, though he recognizes some of the limitations CSG has in this particular area.
“I wish we could have more of an impact on improving the diversity of our campus in terms of admissions in the staff and faculty,” Greene said. “CSG can advocate, we can join those conversations, but at the end of the day, those decisions are not made by us. And so, I used almost every Regents speech as a reminder and especially my last one to kind of reinforce that commitment to being a leading institution.”
They also hope to bring vending machines featuring products such as tampons, Plan B and condoms, as well as Advil and Pepto-Bismol, to campus before this year’s spring term. Baer believes a lack of easy access to these products is a prominent problem on campus.
“While these aren’t free, one of the biggest issues that we talk about is accessibility in terms of these small things that you might need at midnight or things that are time-sensitive,” Baer said. “So, Plan B that you wouldn’t be able to get if you’re a first-year student in a dorm because they don’t sell them in the cafe things, and also you wouldn’t be able to get because Walgreens is closed. It’s really important because it just increases the accessibility of products that are very necessary and very time sensitive.”
Greene further spoke about how he wishes the student body would be more aware of the involvement and impact of CSG throughout campus, and how he believes there is a lack of knowledge on what the organization does as a whole.
“CSG oftentimes gets knocked for being out of touch with the student body or for not being visible enough for students not knowing what it is, that I think the number of students who interact with Central Student Government on a regular basis do so without even knowing we fund over $400,000 annually to student organizations that would not have events without the support of the Student Organization Funding Committee,” Greene said. “Although we’re not perfect and certainly have a lot to improve upon, I wish that the student body would be more aware of the direct and indirect ways in which CSG impacts them on a daily basis. I think that partly goes to us being able to better articulate and better advertise and engage students about how we impact them.”
Both Greene and Baer continued the conversation by giving advice to the newly-elected CSG administration. Greene encouraged the newcomers to stay focused on their initial goals for the University and to not be discouraged if they cannot solve all the problems they strove to solve.
“My advice is not getting lost in terms of their mission and what they sought out to fix on our campus,” Greene said. “The most humbling part of the position is realizing how many different communities face different and unique obstacles and coming to terms with the unfortunate fact that you can’t fix it all, but making sure you're still making a productive mark.”
Baer advised the new administration on the importance of working on projects to help specific groups of people, despite the urge to positively impact as many people as possible.
“My piece of advice is also realizing it’s okay to work on initiatives that do target specific communities,” Baer said. “Often, we want to do things that reach the most people possible, which is a really valiant effort, but it’s okay to work on things that are really specific and really just touch a small group of students, because I think that’s where we can be most effective.”
Greene ended with expressing his and Baer’s gratitude toward the University students.
“My parting words are thank you to the student body for allowing Izzy and I to serve for a year and allowing us to give our best attempts to make a more positive Michigan experience for everyone,” Greene said.