Unlike previous years, this year’s Central Student Government elections are hotly contested with many deserving candidates pushing admirable platforms. There are five pairs of presidential and vice presidential candidates on the ballot this year — each representing a myriad of political parties, or no party at all. Whether it’s engaging students through social media, emphasizing social justice, improving CSG’s funding process or focusing on student issues such as medical amnesty and off-campus housing rights, the candidates all have compelling visions and each offer something unique to students. Ultimately, the OurMichigan party commitment to social justice stands out the most.
The University has largely been defined by the activism of its students in the past. From the initiative to form the Peace Corps to the large number of University students in organizations such as Teach for America, social justice and activism are an integral part of the University’s culture and identity. OurMichigan emphasizes social justice, awareness and activism in its platform. It is this commitment to social justice that make Mersol-Barg and Navaab well-suited to be the face of the student body. OurMichigan’s platform focuses on reaching out to underrepresented student groups to give them a voice in student government.
OurMichigan highlights issues such as tuition equality, minority retention and making college more accessible and affordable to all students. OurMichigan envisions a coalition based government, where students at the grassroots level are able to organize and push relevant policies for students. The party proposes solid initiatives such as creating a food bank to aid financially strapped college students and implementing a student leadership training to enhance the University’s reputation as the “leaders and the best.”
Though OurMichigan has a promising vision for social justice, its platform appeals to a concentrated group. If elected, the party should also work to incorporate other student interests into student government. Mersol-Barg and Navvab should draw on the platforms of their counterparts as well — ideas such as making CSG more pertinent to all students by engaging them through social media. OurMichigan will have to work to ensure all students are involved so CSG becomes relevant in routine campus affairs.
Each of the other candidates have unique strengths and impressive plans for campus improvement — ideas that shouldn’t go without mention. MForward presented a comprehensive platform focusing on medical amnesty, financial transparency and making students aware of off-campus housing rights. However, the inner-party politics that defined the party’s nominating process are a cause for hesitation.
YouMICH highlighted the importance of making it easier for student groups to get funding and proposed streamlining the financial aid process. CSG presidential candidate Shreya Singh’s work with revamping the funding application is a testament to her ability to make this happen. Overall, YouMICH presents realistic and pragmatic goals, goals that could easily be achieved and are needed for the University. But, the focus of their platform is extremely specific and doesn’t include a broad vision to expand CSG’s role to anything beyond what it already does.
Independent candidates Manish Parikh and Omar Hashwi stressed the need to use social media to reach out to students and make CSG a viable presence in students’ lives. Their use of memes to advertise their campaign reinforces their ability to appeal to the student body. They also proposed adding a polling commission to CSG that would collect student opinions on campus affairs. Their focus on representing students along with their creativity, energy and vigor is commendable. However, they lack concrete plans to implement their ideas. The fact that they don’t have a focused vision raises concerns about how many of their policies will be achievable in a year.
This year’s CSG elections present students with a tough decision. There are numerous candidates, all of whom are passionate about the University and bring innovative platforms to the table. What separates OurMichigan’s platform from the others is its commitment to make CSG relevant for students that don’t currently have a significant voice in student government by giving a platform to social justice issues that define the identity of this institution.
For this year’s election, The Michigan Daily’s editorial board endorses KEVIN MERSOL-BARG and AMY NAVVAB for CSG president and vice president.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article misstated the number of pairs running for CSG president and vice president