As the president of the University’s Engineering Council, I have been able to view the Central Student Government with a unique outside perspective. I have watched as MForward transitioned CSG from an organization that focuses merely on political posturing to one that successfully advocates for students at the University, local and state level. In March 2010, MForward formed promising big changes to campus — and back then, as is happening today, naysayers said that student government at the University was powerless. Instead of focusing on bettering this University for decades to come, it should provide “tangible” programs and events for students.
Since its formation two years ago, MForward has delivered on its promises. Under former student body President Chris Armstrong, the organization successfully implemented a gender-neutral option in University Housing. Under the direction of President DeAndree Watson, state appropriations to the University increased for the first time in more than a decade as a result of extensive lobbying efforts in Lansing through the Student Association of Michigan. But MForward hasn’t restricted itself to these large issues — small programs and changes have also been part of the MForward platform. For example, for the first time in years, students can again enjoy a meal in the residence halls on Saturday night. In addition, CSG hosted a tailgate before the Notre Dame night game last fall that attracted more than 8,000 students and greatly reduced the number of hospital visits due to alcohol poisoning as compared to other football Saturdays.
I am confident that Aditya Sathi, Louis Mirante and the entire MForward slate will continue to deliver promising changes to students. For example, consider Sathi’s work on a medical amnesty policy that would eliminate the risk of receiving Minor in Possession of Alcohol charges when emergency services are requested for an alcohol-related incident. This program encourages students to contact emergency services when necessary and has been proven to save lives at other universities. Thanks to the hard work of Sathi and others in MForward, a bill implementing this policy has passed in the Michigan House of Representatives and is currently awaiting a vote in the Senate.
Members will also work to establish greater student representation on University decision-making committees, including the University’s Board of Regents. While opponents of change and greater student representation say this is impossible and requires an amendment to the state constitution, they are wrong. In fact, Wayne State University and Michigan State University both provide student representation on their governing boards and the same constitutional provisions bind them. Gaining greater representation for students is possible, and under MForward it will get done.
MForward members believe that student government must accomplish small goals as well. They will work with other campus organizations to implement a bike share program on campus to provide public-access bikes to students. The CSG website has the ability to bring students and student government closer together by informing students what representatives are working on and by publicizing how CSG funds are utilized. Shreya Singh, current treasurer of CSG and youMICH presidential candidate, did not put CSG financial information online despite multiple requests. Sathi and Mirante will make sure that the campus community can find out what CSG does with student money by making the information available online.
Some parties will have you believe that CSG must become smaller and less significant. They say they want student government to be more “pragmatic,” but this is only a code word for unimaginative and uninspired. I am proud to be part of an impressive group of organizations and leaders that oppose this narrow view and endorse MForward and their vision for a student government that can promote big, lasting change, just as it has already done. MForward has been supported by an incredibly impressive list of leaders including Denard Robinson, Jay Gage and Kevin Tatulyan, the president and vice president of the Student Association of Michigan. If you believe that student government shouldn’t confine itself to a narrow set of issues, take 60 seconds to log on to vote.umich.edu today or tomorrow and vote for MForward’s impressive slate of student leaders.
Ryan Roberts is the president of the University of Michigan Engineering Council and a junior in the College of Engineering.