Michigan’s fight song has a verse that includes the phrase “leaders and the best,” and right after we sing it we shout “Go Blue.” Everything about the University of Michigan teaches us the importance of leadership and doing our best. We are encouraged to volunteer and give back to our community. That’s why I’m running for president of the Central Student Government as part of the OurMichigan ticket, which envisions CSG as an inclusive and active advocate for students. When you see the posters and flyers around campus you may wonder, “does it make a difference who leads student government?” Yes, there is a difference between the various candidates and parties, and let me voice some of OurMichigan’s goals and strategies.

Too often people use the word leadership in affiliation with ideas of power, dominance, or control. In a university based on a legacy of collective change, activism and innovation, we in OurMichigan strongly believe in encouraging leadership as a form of empowerment and community building. Our platform reflects this commitment through its goals of increasing accessibility, supporting coalitions and providing sustainable avenues for student engagement.

We must address the high cost of being a student in Ann Arbor. The financial challenges faced by current and prospective students threaten our educational opportunities and can diminish the diversity of our student body. Lack of money can deny students enrollment or heavily constrain their options for campus activities. How can students volunteer or be active members in the campus community when we struggle to pay for tuition, rent and food with extremely limited funds? Under my administration, CSG will answer this question in part by setting up a University funded food bank. This will help support students in need. Right now, the University doesn’t have a resource that supports its students with basic living needs. OurMichigan believes that CSG can do more to help students with financial hardship.

OurMichigan would like to create a strong advocacy coalition against tuition hikes and in support of increases in financial aid. We will continue our work for tuition equality while simultaneously creating safe spaces in residence halls and campus gathering locations. This can improve accessibility and security for our diverse community. We believe CSG can help implement policies for the recruitment and retention of all underrepresented communities. With tuition equality, more financial aid and less drastic tuition increases, the University can improve its student body diversity and acceptance rate of lower income students.

Members of my party seek to facilitate leadership through the process of building coalitions around vital progressive movements on campus. All student organizations on campus dedicate their work to effecting powerful change. Sometimes the visions they commit resources to overlap with the visions of others. Rather than work against one another or spend time and money redundantly, let’s find ways to better work together.

OurMichigan understands that CSG can serve as a platform for collaboration in order to encourage and strengthen the passionate endeavors of individual students or groups. We can create forums for inter-organizational discussions as well as connect students to faculty, administrators and the public through town hall meetings. Collaboration is the most efficacious strategy for students to create change on campus with implications that will echo throughout local, state and national communities.

Corresponding to our emphasis on bringing students together from all walks of life, OurMichigan hopes to transform CSG into a direct extension of all forms of student voice and interests. Understanding more of the challenges and goals from different campus communities will allow us to use our resources to bridge the gap between them.

In general, we want to connect CSG to as many students as possible. Apart from the listening tours, we will also create a simple, web-based application so students can more easily get funding for campus events and projects. Our inclusive approach will be easily accessible and user-friendly. Through this, we will improve communication between campus administrators, CSG and all those whom we represent in order to facilitate a more open and representative University.

If you support our vision for leadership, please visit vote.umich.edu to vote for me, vice-presidential candidate Amy Navvab and representative candidates from OurMichigan. Each vote moves CSG closer to a more inclusive and considerate resource for all student leaders to add their voice.

Kevin Mersol-Barg is the OurMichigan candidate running for Central Student Government president.

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