University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel joined Central Student Government’s monthly meeting to discuss the general election, financial aid solutions and diversity concerns on campus.
Schlissel highlighted the importance the state of Michigan has had as a potential swing state this year, pointing to recent campaigning efforts throughout the state on the eve of the election.
Political figures who have recently paid Michigan residents a visit include President Barack Obama, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), former Gov. Sarah Palin (R–Ala.) and Ivanka Trump, daughter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“(The candidates’) perceptions are that Michigan is up for grabs,” Schlissel said at the meeting.
He also noted that only 40 percent of college students voted in the 2012 election and encouraged more student participation this year, noting that two seats on the Board of Regents are up for reelection this year along with national races.
“Sixty percent of your classmates decided it wasn’t important to elect the next president,” he said. “It is very important that we show the world that Michigan students care about the election and your roles as citizens.”
Along with discussion the election, Schlissel also said he was impressed with the body for launching their “It Starts with Me” initiative last week, a campaign aiming to bring light to discrimination incidents on campus.
Addressing the anti-Black, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ posters that have been posted in academic buildings and residence halls this semester and drew numerous student protests, Schlissel said he believes the most effective way to get rid of hate is to counter it with a discussion including more voices.
“You need to think: What could you do as a fellow individual to help another student that feels threatened, unsafe, demoralized and unwelcomed?” he asked. “What you can do is show that you care.”
Ann Arbor resident Joel Reinstein and some CSG members raised concerns about diversity in the University, with Reinstein emphasizing the decreasing Black student population in the University.
The 2016 enrollment report stated the University increased enrollment of all underrepresented minority groups on campus, as well as from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, though Black enrollment dropped in the freshman class.
“We have to capture the full diversity of the state of Michigan as a public institution,” Schlissel said in response. “We have to capture the diversity of our nation.”
He noted the University promotes diversity via recruitment programs in cities such as Detroit, Ypsilanti and Grand Rapids, like the Wolverine Pathways scholarship launched in 2015, in an effort to recruit a broader array of students without considering race in admissions, as is mandated by state law.
“The frustrating thing for me is that I’m convinced there are talented people in every community and every high school all around Michigan, but a lot of school systems and a lot of circumstances don’t allow people to show that talent in a way that makes it very easy to recognize,” Schlissel said.
He added that he plans to use the High Achieving Involved Leader scholarship program to aid students of low socioeconomic status who have been cited by their high school principals as promising students, offering aid in college applications and full tuition if admitted to the University. Through this program, Schlissel said, enrollment for first-generation students jumped from 8.5 to 14.2 percent in 2016.
Several CSG students raised concerns about the University’s overall affordability during the meeting. Schlissel said the University must increase tuition to keep high-quality facilities, though he noted it aims to increase financial aid for students in need.
“School is expensive,” he said. “And it keeps getting more expensive.”
CSG also passed a Books not Bombs resolution to provide support for Syrian refugee scholarships. LSA junior Haleemah Aqel, the head organizer of the University chapter of Books Not Bombs, was the author of the resolution.
“(University of Michigan students) are not currently in a war zone,” she said. “We need to recognize that these students don’t have that.”