The University of Michigan LSA Student Government will be hosting elections from Nov. 17 to Nov. 18 to fill the positions of 15 elected representatives and decide on three binding ballot initiatives. The elections will have a rank-based voting system where students can vote for 15 out of this year’s 26 candidates running for LSA Student Government.
Some issues central to this year’s election include expanding support for survivors of former athletic doctor Robert Anderson after Central Student Government recently passed a resolution demanding more support for survivors of sexual assault on campus, addressing housing affordability and accessibility issues present in Ann Arbor and advocating for equity of resources across all three U-M campuses.
Public Health senior Riya Gupta, who is one of this year’s three elections directors, said that there will be options for in-person voting to help increase voter turnout among the 16,000 undergraduate students in LSA. Last year all voting for student government elections was done virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Historically across the whole University, there’s been very low voter turnout (in student government elections),” Gupta said. “Hopefully everybody will have their vote and have their voices heard for this election cycle.”
LSA senior Danielle DiFranco, another elections director, said she hopes students recognize the power their vote has on decision-making for the campus.
“I think it’s important for students to vote if they want their voices to be heard in the LSA Student Government, and it’s nice for them to be able to choose who they want to represent them,” DiFranco said. “The student government has a lot of power, which maybe a lot of students don’t know.”
LSA senior Tyler Watt, the final elections director, emphasized that by engaging with the LSA elections, students can impact current issues like COVID-19 grading policies, technology accessibility and resource distribution.
“This is such an exciting time for students to be involved with democratic engagement (and) to figure out how as students they can advocate for themselves on campus through their student governments,” Watt said. “So there’s just an incredible potential for change that comes out of student government elections. I want to make sure that it’s not lost on students at this University.”
Watt also said he thinks having candidates of different grade levels and backgrounds would help students on campus become connected to the organization.
“It’s good to support candidates who you agree with and who represent you when you’re voting on the ballot,” Watt said.
Some of the candidates running for LSA SG representatives talked to The Michigan Daily about their goals for next year, if elected.
LSA freshman Emma Sklar, an LSA SG candidate, discussed the three main highlights of her campaign agenda: equity, accountability and reproductive health rights on campus. Sklar said she hopes to expand UHS healthcare to provide medical abortions for students on campus, as well as establish a program for the U-M Division of Public Safety and Security to provide free transportation to and from local Planned Parenthood locations for students living on campus. Currently, Sklar is endorsed by Michigan Students Against Sexual Assault and Students for Reproductive Rights Justice.
“In addition to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center on campus, I think that the … Student Government must establish a permanent sexual assault committee, which will allow for specialized attention and policy-led legislative frame on our University’s campus (for) certain cases that may be more complicated than others,” Sklar said. “Because there is a severe lack of accountability on our campus, too many survivors have been and still are left in the dark.”
LSA sophomore Aleezah Manzoor, an LSA SG candidate, said she hopes to create a mentorship program for undergraduate students to help with things like backpacking registration, particularly after a virtual academic year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a sophomore, I only had three months (on campus) last year, and then I got home,” Manzoor said. “And so it was all online classes. A lot of people weren’t able to make their relationships as they could have been able to make in person. So I was really passionate (about the student experience).”
LSA freshman Bilal Irfan, an LSA SG candidate, said he was inspired to run by campus equity initiatives across all three University of Michigan campuses. If elected, he said he is interested in extending dining hall hours and bringing more diverse, optional meal plans.
“I think that was something that really hit me, that we have so much money and are getting invested just in (the Ann Arbor) campus,” Irfan said. “We look at the state of Dearborn and Flint, you see that there are very apparent disparities. I think they don’t have access to the same research opportunities. They don’t have the access to the same facilities, the same clubs, the same networks. And I think there’s a lot that we could do to still help them while recognizing that they are separate institutions in some ways.”
LSA freshman Dylan Bernstein, an LSA SG candidate, said he aims to help freshmen get more involved on campus and understand the opportunities offered at the University. As part of the internal review committee, he said he also hopes to find ways to restructure student government and implement a solution-oriented environment.
“Because I’m a freshman, I know exactly what it’s like to not know what all those things are, and just make it a little bit more streamlined, a little bit more approachable,” Bernstein said. “So I guess the point I’m trying to get across through this campaign is that I may be a freshman, I may be new to the campus, but by the same token I have what it takes to properly represent the student body and what I hope is positive.”
LSA sophomore Gabriel Ervin said he hopes to expand voter turnout for this election cycle through social media, events and lobbying initiatives.
“In this position, I really want to put a stethoscope up to the student body since voter turnout is so low, we don’t really know what they want,” Ervin said. “And so by increasing voter turnout, we’re gonna see more activism, we’re gonna see more involvement and then we can finally see what the student body really wants and needs.”
Voting for LSA SG elections will be available at vote.umich.edu.
This story has been updated to correct details about Emma Sklar’s campaign.
Daily Staff Reporter Nirali Patel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.