Despite a lack of student interest in the past, six students and an unknown number of write-in candidates are vying for a seat on the University’s Department of Public Safety Oversight Committee.
In this week’s Michigan Student Assembly election, the candidates are running for one open student seat on the DPS Oversight Committee, an advisory group comprised of two faculty members, two staff members and two students who are in charge of making recommendations to University officials about grievances filed against DPS officers. The election began yesterday and ends tomorrow at 11:59 p.m.
Only one student, LSA senior Ellen Steele, ran for the position in the winter election. She and LSA senior Michael Pry, a write-in candidate in the winter election, currently hold the positions. Pry is not running for his position again, but Steele’s term ends in the spring. In order for the committee to operate according to state law, at least one new student member will need to be elected to the committee.
MSA President DeAndree Watson said he believes more candidates are interested in running for the position this semester because MSA has successfully publicized the vacancies. In an attempt to make students aware of the openings, MSA e-mailed the University student body to encourage them to apply. MSA cannot control who runs for the election or choose candidates — which the assembly did before 2009 when The Michigan Daily reported that the nomination process for the committee was in violation of state law.
“We don’t control (the) number of students,” Watson said. “We only notify students that the election is coming. It really depends on the student body.”
LSA sophomore Lucy Zhao, a candidate for the DPS Oversight Committee, wrote in an e-mail interview that she found out about MSA on her first day on campus. She wrote that she wanted to get involved in student government to impact the campus community.
Zhao added that she has joined various student government commissions and decided to run for the DPS Oversight Committee because she is passionate about equality.
“Students are not always able to have their voice heard in dealing with the authority of the DPS officers,” Zhao wrote. “I want to change this. I want to hear what students think and have the ability to make a difference in the way that they experience this campus.”
Public Policy junior Brock Grosso, a write-in candidate for the DPS Oversight Committee, said he is interested in issues related to civil liberty, criminal justice and policing. Grosso said he thinks working with the DPS Oversight Committee could allow him to affect how these issues play out on campus.
“I wanted to help students with liberties and thought the DPS Oversight Committee would be the place for it,” Grosso said.
He added that with the recent assault cases on and near campus, the committee could provide a voice for students and cultivate increased transparency between students and police on campus.
“I want to improve communication lines between DPS and the students,” Grosso said. “I want them to feel comfortable going to DPS for concerns. I want to foster that relationship.”
Engineering freshman Timothy Newberger, also a candidate for the committee, wrote in an e-mail interview that he read about the committee’s vacancies in the Daily.
“I found this bizarre considering the large size of the University and decided it would be best if someone filled the empty spots,” wrote Newberger, who is also running for an MSA representative spot.
The other candidates running for the DPS Oversight Committee seats did not respond to several interview requests from The Michigan Daily.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the number of student seats that are open on the DPS Oversight Committee for next semester. It also incorrectly stated that Ellen Steele is not running for her position again. Her term on the committee ends in the spring.