As students gear up for the University of Michigan's Central Student Government elections on March 21 and 22, The Daily sat down with executive candidates to talk platforms, vision, and plans. In this installment, we profile the True Blue party, headlined by presidential candidate Arathi Sabada and vice presidential candidate Marianne Drysdale.
Business junior Arathi Sabada, True Blue’s presidential candidate, got involved with Central Student Government almost as soon as she stepped onto campus her freshman year. She decided it was time to run for president after seeing the importance of engaging with the student body.
“I got involved with CSG my first semester freshman year so it was a very new experience, and I had so many incredible mentors, and it gave me an amazing platform to work on issues I saw on campus,” Sabada said. “When I was going through tough times, CSG really helped me in terms of programs that it had, so seeing what the platform did for me and seeing what it could do for other students in terms of the work (was important). I did a lot of work in terms of supporting student organizations with food insecurity on campus and seeing how powerful the platform was, and feeling like I had the experience to lead that organization is what inspired me to run. I also just really love engaging with different student organizations and talking to students on the Diag in my role as a former executive member, and working on a couple campaigns, that was something I was really looking forward to doing and inspired me to run.”
LSA sophomore Marianne Drysdale, True Blue’s vice presidential candidate, said she felt like CSG was her first real community on campus, and felt compelled to run this semester after thinking about the impact the body has had on her own experience.
“When I came to campus as a freshman, I knew that I wanted to get involved but I had no idea what I wanted to get involved in so I was definitely the kid at Festifall talking to every single booth,” Drysdale said. “I spent first semester feeling like really involved, but spending a lot of hours doing a lot of nothing, I felt like I wasn’t involved in anything that was really a tight-knit community. So when I ran on the campaign for CSG it was like the first moment where I was like, ‘Woah,’ I feel like I’m touching this really important work … Right now I’m a (CSG) chair position for communications, which is a lot of making sure students are engaging in student government and student government is engaging with students, which is a lot of what an executive position is. I also knew Arathi through working on the campaign last year, and when I found out she was running I was really excited to work on her campaign in whatever capacity possible and then the opportunity presented itself to be VP, and I took a minute to think about it and I thought, ‘You know, this is really something I could see myself doing and liking’ so it was totally unexpected.”
Sabada said one of her party’s main policy points has to do with food insecurity. She is also committed to improving overall student experience.
“There’s not a lot of grocery stores in the area. It’s really hard to have access to healthy and affordable food and I think there’s so many great orgs who are doing so much amazing work on campus, from Maize and Blue Cupboard to the Food Insecurity Taskforce, (and) I think CSG would be a really great way to scale up that work,” she said. “One thing that I’m really excited about is potentially hosting a pop-up grocery store in partnership with a local grocery store where they could come to campus and students could purchase that fresh and affordable produce as a shorter term initiative, and definitely working towards a longer-term initiative — eventually opening up a grocery store on campus where students can buy that healthy and affordable food, is something we’re really excited about for the campaign. We have smaller things that are really focused on student experience — one thing we’ve talked about is that it would be really great if CSG had a centralized place where you could book rooms on campus, as well as increased lighting, bus stops for safety, we think is really important.”
Drysdale also emphasized True Blue’s desire to help engage freshmen in the campus community.
“One of the big things for me was connecting freshmen — not just freshmen, any students who don’t feel like they have a network— to student orgs that can be that home base or places that they can meaningfully engage in Michigan,” she said. “So that’s one thing that I’ve been working on this year is talking to the administration, but one of the things I’m really excited to do is a by students for students mentorship and I think there are mentorship programs that do exist and a lot of them are admin-run so you feel like you’re reaching out to the administration to give you a friend … Also things like changing our light systems at bus stops, another big thing is accessibility of UHS. If you have the flu, or have any other kind of thing and you need a note because you have to miss class — if you live on North Campus, hiking down here to get a note, having little pop-up clinics that could do those small things all over campus is another thing we're thinking about doing.”
Drysdale went on to discuss the importance of making CSG accessible to all students across campus.
“Accessibility is a huge thing for me, and that’s part of why communications is so important,” Drysdale said. “Without students knowing we literally exist only to help them, and without creating a culture where people are welcome — what are we even doing there? That’s the whole point, that’s the reason we got elected, it’s not just so we can feel fancy and use fancy words — it’s so we can help students. I think the biggest way we’re combatting that is by our core team and the reps that we plan on running are all driven by our core values and that they care about Michigan. We’re not finding people that want to be President one day, it’s just they know and care about a lot of students.”
When asked to describe her leadership style in one word, Sabada chose “mentorship.”
“Mentorship is a big thing for me,” she said. “I think it’s really important that your team can take success and ownership of what they’re doing … I would say empowering people to make decisions and run their own initiatives is something I’m really focused on.”
Chiming in, Drysdale emphasized True Blue is also committed to spreading empathy and empowerment through campus.
“Empathy is really important, but empowerment is another thing,” she said. “We have a whole list of platform points we want to accomplish, but none of us can do that by themselves … You have to feel like you're in a culture where you can do your best.”