ORGANIZE, the first Central Student Government campaign to publicly declare its plan to run a slate of candidates in the 2021 CSG elections this March, announced its campaign and platform last Monday.
The party, composed of LSA juniors Sujin Kim, Sam Burnstein and Annie Mintun, released a 32-page platform including 11 policy areas the team intends to tackle, ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic, to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, to climate change and the environment.
The group hopes to create a student Board of Regents position, allocate more money to campus resources like Counseling and Psychological Services in hopes of shortening wait times and encourage the University to reach its goal of achieving at least 10% Black student enrollment.
Other priorities outlined in the platform include compelling the University to divest from fossil fuel companies, quickening the pace towards carbon neutrality and publishing grades for University administrators.
Kim, ORGANIZE’s presidential candidate, said while she knows there are many different ways to run CSG, she believes the wide variety of experience the team has will help them effectively lead the Assembly. Kim currently serves as legislative advisor to current CSG President Amanda Kaplan and Vice President Saveri Nandigama — the first person to hold this position.
“Having very deep experience in the Assembly combined with experience on the executive team, … it lends a very good perspective and a well-rounded perspective to how the structures of CSG should work,” Kim said. “There’s a million different ways to think that you’re qualified to execute (the presidency), and this is the set that I think works best: Look at things from a big picture perspective. I think I have a skill set that fits that very well.”
Kim was appointed to CSG as LSA representative her freshman year and has served as ethics chair. Her sophomore year, she retained her seat in the assembly and served as resolutions chair.
Kim said she enjoys applying her experiences with political science research and work with the U.S. Congress to her role in CSG. According to Kim, ORGANIZE’s campaign platform aims to hold the administration accountable, maximize the University’s relationship with Ann Arbor and better understand the government relations position in CSG.
“CSG tends to get bogged down in smaller things sometimes instead of coming at things from a larger perspective, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Kim said. “I think it’s done with very good intention and it’s just a different way of trying to approach the problem, but you can’t solve the problem unless you really understand what it is and I think that’s the trap we’ve been falling into.”
Burnstein, the vice presidential candidate, was elected as an LSA representative in March 2019 and served on the CSG Assembly from October 2019 through 2020 before resigning last week to avoid any potential conflicts of interest with the upcoming CSG election. Burnstein said he is excited to take on the large issues the ORGANIZE platform emphasizes.
“We’ve identified a number of important really, really ambitious goals that we want to undertake,” Burnstein said. “And we acknowledge outright that it is very plausible these will not happen by the end of our administration, but we are certainly going to work hard to advance the conversation and keep these goals moving forward.”
Mintun, the campaign manager, said the slate of candidates shares a big-picture plan of how to bring student activism into CSG and bring about tangible change.
“We really want to bring student organizers into CSG and have CSG work as an advocacy organization — so ORGANIZE was just the perfect name for us,” Mintun said. “We definitely are not an administration that will be quiet, and I think that’s one of our strengths. We want student government to be an advocacy organization for students because we know it hasn’t been.”
Mintun said she is most excited about working to get a student on the Board of Regents, a goal she’s had since last summer when the University announced the controversial tuition increase.
“I’m very excited that (getting a student regent) has found its way from student advocacy groups into Central Student Government, but also more broadly,” Mintun said. “I feel like Sam, Sujin and I have a more big picture idea of what Central Student Government can do.”
Burnstein, a vocal critic of the University’s COVID-19 response, said the push to incorporate student activism into CSG is in part a reaction to the University’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“(The pandemic) has brought to the attention of every single student at the University of Michigan how the University administration’s decisions can impact student’s lives,” Burnstein said. “There’s a number of events I can point to over the last year that became top news stories across campus and catalyzed the attention of a lot of students. I think alongside that, CSG was able to play an important role in holding the administration to account, working with administrators to implement changes that students demanded and also ask really tough questions.”
Kim said that she and Burnstein share a fundamental understanding of how to best serve their entire constituency. She emphasized that students should vote for them because they will enact big picture policy change for the entire student body.
“You can’t just accept what’s in front of you, or you’re not doing your due diligence,” Kim said. “I think that applies to most things in life, and we have done that for as long as we’ve been in CSG, and that’s our fundamental concept behind all these things.”
Daily Staff Reporter Martina Zacker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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