At a debate hosted Wednesday evening by Central Student Government, representatives from parties Your Michigan, Defend Affirmative Action Party and newMich spoke about the importance of mental health awareness and resources, the rights of undocumented students and the prevalence of Greek life on campus.
The event is the second during this CSG election cycle, following a debate hosted by The Michigan Daily last week.
Moderated by Aaron Kall, University of Michigan director of debate, the debate was split between the presidential candidates debating for the first hour and the vice presidents debating for the second.
In his opening remarks, Your Michigan presidential candidate Thomas Hislop, a Public Policy junior, called for a moment of silence for the University student found dead earlier this week.
A CSG resolution that aimed to support undocumented students by advocating for the extension of in-state tuition to undocumented students was an early topic of contention. LSA senior Keysha Wall, the Defend Affirmative Action Party presidential candidate, criticizing both Your Michigan and newMich for their response to it. In her opening remarks, Wall challenged her opponents to take a stronger stance on on the resolution, citing Your Michigan’s presidential candidates’ decision to vote against the resolution.
newMICH presidential candidate David Schafer, an LSA junior, agreed with Wall, charging that Hislop interrupted two women of color while debating the resolution.
In response, Hislop said he supported the spirit of the resolution, but the content of it wasn’t well planned. He also said the two women involved in the conversation agreed with him and emphasized that he supported the message behind the resolution.
Beyond the resolution, candidates also sought to show how they were different as a party on a number of other fronts. In speaking to their platform during the presidential debate, Your Michigan heavily emphasized the tangibility of their goals and their interest in working with the University administration closely, criticizing what they called newMICH’s strategy of “demands.” In Schafer responded to those criticisms by calling Hislop’s emphasis on working with the administration rather than demanding changes an example of privilege, saying that minorities had a right to demand modifications to current policies.
The theme of showing difference continued in the vice presidential debate, most notably when candidates were asked if they considered the University to be “great,” referring to the slogan of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, “Make America Great Again.”
newMICH vice-presidential candidate Micah Griggs, an LSA junior, charged that Your Michigan had referred incorrectly to Black students in their platform.
“When first addressing Black students, they first called them intercity, then they called them urban and then finally called them underrepresented,” Griggs said.
She added that she thought Your Michigan’s platform was full of “condescending language,” calling it similar to an attitude she said the University presents that keeps many Black students from attending.
In response, Your Michigan vice-presidential candidate Cam Dotson, an LSA junior, defended his use of using “intercity” and “urban” as correct language he learned from his sociology classes.
The debate also touched on the presence of Greek life — which several candidates belong to — on campus.
Hislop referenced his leadership position in Greek life, saying he accepted it because he wanted to bring about change. He said he hopes to see safer measures for students, such as earlier dining hall hours and safer tailgates.
Wall said she believed that Greek life supports women in their time in college and provides sisterhood, but also said that the University needs to address sexual assault and rape on campus. Wall and Okorom both put heavy emphasis on the expulsion and outing of rapists on campus throughout the debate, stating the University had a history of covering up incidents.
After the debate, current CSG President Cooper Charlton, an LSA senior, said he believed that DAAP’s closing speech was most passionate.
During the remarks, Wall stated that CSG had previously let students be oppressed, citing DAAP’s experiences with protesting on campus.
“I was very moved by the passion, and that was something I really resonated with as a leader,” Charlton said.
He noted that the issues being discussed this year include an underlying distrust for CSG.
“I definitely think CSG has a lack of trust from student body right now,” Charlton said. “It’s something we’ve tried to fight this year, and unfortunately I don’t think we completed our goal.”