After Rackham Student Government proposed seceding from Central Student Government last week — a move that could result in the loss of more than $200,000 in annual revenue for the organization — CSG members are speaking out against the potential schism.
Manish Parikh, CSG president and Business senior, said CSG serves as one of few student organizations that represents both graduates and undergraduates, and is an important relationship to maintain.
“It has been this way for a reason, and it will be this way for a reason,” Parikh said.
He continued, arguing that separate student governments bodies would lessen the power of the student.
“When our voice is together, we have one singular unified powerful voice,” Parikh said. “But if we split up into separate factions … our voice becomes divided.”
But RSG president Michael Benson has argued that CSG and RSG have different interests and priorities.
According to Benson’s preliminary plan, the secession would increase funding to the student governments of the individual schools and colleges, and would fund a new unilateral graduate student government.
CSG would no longer collect the $7.19 fee from every graduate student each semester, but a similar fee would be split between a graduate student’s respective school government branch and the new overarching graduate student government.
Parikh argued that CSG is actively involved with graduate students, despite graduate student representatives’ sparse attendance at CSG meetings. In particular he cited a CSG assembly resolution from the winter 2012 semester that pledged $35,000 to childcare funding that is primarily used by graduate students, and the AirBus airport transportation program, of which he said approximately 30 percent of participants are graduate students.
He added that CSG also developed the Graduate Student Affairs Commission last year, and is looking to increase its involvement with graduate students. Parikh noted that graduate student organizations are an “administrative priority” to him.
According to Parikh, the Student Organization Funding Committee — the main funding body of CSG — allocates funding to groups regardless if they are graduate or undergraduate students at the University.
Parikh stressed that Rackham is not the only school with graduate students at the University. If the separation occurred, the Ford School of Public Policy, for example, would have its undergraduate students represented by CSG while its graduate students would represent the new graduate student government.
“Central Student Government has done some amazing things (for) graduate students, and I’m going to be taking it to another level through the course of this administration,” Parikh said.
Rackham student Elson Liu has been at the University for a decade and has been an off-and-on member of student government since 2007. Most recently, Liu was a member of the University Election Commission during the March 2012 election.
Liu said the idea of a separate graduate student government was brought up in 2010 when the student government revised its constitution, but the idea was eventually dismissed.
“I think there is value in having a body where every student at the University of Michigan is entitled to representation,” Liu said. “I think that value would be lost if, instead of that, you had two or more bodies independently representing different segments of the student body.
Liu added that a separate graduate student government still may not increase graduate student governmental participation.
“In the more general case, I think the average graduate and professional student is equally indifferent to the Central Student Government and to their respective school and college government,” he said.