As elections for Central Student Government draw closer, new parties are emerging to take on the prevailing Make Michigan ticket.
newMICH, a platform aimed at increasing transparency and student voice on the assembly, is among the first to announce their candidacy, along with Your Michigan. Leading the party’s executive ticket are LSA juniors David Schafer and Micah Griggs, both current CSG representatives, running for president and vice president respectively. LSA sophomore Anushka Sarkar, who is currently on CSG’s executive committee as the chief programming officer, will serve as newMICH’s campaign manager.
Sarkar said the newMICH platform surfaced through the reorganization and rebranding of both the The Team and Make Michigan, the top two rival platforms from last year’s election.
For the past two years, CSG’s executive positions have been held by the Make Michigan platform. University of Michigan alum Bobby Dishell, the 2014 CSG president, and current CSG president Cooper Charlton, a LSA senior, ran on campaigns featuring safety initiatives, increasing diversity and fostering cultural awareness across campus. In this past year’s election, Make Michigan promised to make transportation more convenient on campus and encourage student-led participation in initiatives pertaining to student life.
Sarkar said though they were inspired by previous objectives, newMICH will be focusing on student outreach in particular in an effort to break away from the flaws of the previous platforms.
“One thing that I’ve been very proud of this group for doing is really cold-call outreach, like reaching out to student groups that aren’t represented in CSG and finding out what they want,” Sarkar said.
For Schafer, deviations from the previous platforms stem from student input and what they want to see in CSG.
“In terms of the inspirations for the platforms, I think a lot of it has been in the room and having these conversations with administrators and students,” Schafer said.
newMICH’s manifesto hinges on four pillars: student voice, connection, well-being and opportunity. Griggs said the party’s goal is to place a student onto the Board of Regents, ideally in a voting capacity, a feature in multiple previous CSG platforms.
Because the makeup of Board of Regents is outlined in the state Constitution, creating a voting position specifically for a student would require amending it, which requires a statewide vote. As well, to get on the state ballot, the amendment would either have to be approved and collect a minimum number of signatures as a citizen-led initiative, or be referred to the ballot by the state legislature.
However, universities in several other states with similar laws to Michigan have provided for student representation on their boards through the creation of a de facto, non-voting student member.
newMICH candidates said even if the student were unable to have voting rights, their voice would be an invaluable source for the assembly.
“It would be important to have that non-voting member on (the) Board of Regents and various committees talking about diversity, equity, curriculum,” Griggs said.
Having a presence on the Board of Regents would satisfy one of the party’s goals, well-being, as a student present on the board would be capable of voicing support for the expansion and funding of CAPS and SAPAC programs across campus, Griggs added.
The party aims to attain their goal of connection by connecting students with the Division of Public Safety and Security through 24-hour chat and texting programs. On opportunity, the party plans on hosting awareness weeks during which CSG helps to educate students and remove stigma from issues on campus such as drug use.
LSA junior Shamaila Ashraf, a co-chair for the party, said each year candidates pitch plans to make CSG more diverse, yet the voice of the majority remains the same with each regime.
A 2015 Michigan Daily analysis found that some groups have been notably underrepresented among CSG top positions over the past 22 years in comparison with the overall student population, such as Hispanic and female students.
Ashraf said she plans to stop the continued instigation of old ideas by requiring InterGroup Relations training, an organization that facilitates exercises and training regarding identity and inclusion for groups on campus, within the organization.
“Everyone says that they’re going to offer diversity, they’re going to offer an inclusive space to have those voices, but that doesn’t always happen,” Ashraf said.
Griggs echoed Ashraf’s sentiment, saying CSG requires diversity moving forward. She stressed that newMICH is making productivity and inclusivity of the student government a priority.
“In the past, CSG was and currently is homogenous. We really think that having a representative and inclusive environment is productive, and contributes to a holistic learning experience.” Griggs said. “I think that’s what separates us from other parties.”
For Sarkar, addressing the root problems on campus can be accomplished by further distancing their platform from predecessors. Recent candidates, she said, have had similar platforms, which she believes has lead to the continuation of the same problems each year regarding inclusivity.
In terms of transparency, the party plans to implement open Q&A sessions between CSG and the commission, not just between the assembly and students. Ashraf, who ran her freshman year with Make Michigan as a LSA representative, said open conversation is just one example of how they plan to increase transparency.
Overall, the candidates said they were looking forward to beginning the campaign season. This year’s CSG elections will be held on March 23 and 24.
“Students are tired of being quiet and feeling that the administration doesn’t hear them,” Schafer said. “We’re so excited. It’s time and we’re ready and we believe.”