The current state of our University’s Central Student Government is something to be bemoaned. Instead of being led by pragmatists dedicated to governing and improving campus life; isolationism and political zealotry currently consume our elected representatives and shroud CSG in a haze of unrealistic idealism and vague promises of transformational change far inaccessible to the average student. CSG has lost its fundamental principles and it has lost its focus. It’s time for students across campus to take CSG back.
There are six candidates for president and vice president this year, and each is claiming to bring big change to the CSG — but how can we trust such a statement? Every year that I have attended the University, there have been calls for change at CSG. Every year we may gain some change from a few individuals on the 3rd floor of the Union, but for the most part the actual achievements of CSG representatives fall short of their vague or foolhardy promises to the voters during campaigns. The reason they fall short on their promises is not that their intentions were bad or that their ideas were bad, but that they failed to recognize CSG’s practical limits, and more importantly, failed to recognize where the strengths of a student government lie.
One of the largest services at CSG dedicated directly to the enhancement of student life is the Student Organization Funding Commission. The commission is not perfect, but as a vice-chair of SOFC I can honestly say that the change we have seen this year with the new rolling funding system would have been impossible without the vision, guidance and assiduous leadership of CSG Treasurer Shreya Singh. Shreya has been instrumental in the new rolling funding system, which has allowed an unprecedented number of student organizations to receive unprecedented amounts of funding to bring the level of campus involvement and leadership to a higher standard. With more opportunities to apply for funding than ever before, student organizations are putting on more events and engaging more students in activism, community service, culture, concerts, art, academia, sports, community building and movements of social justice. They are bringing in speakers and performers, and sending out students to other schools and states to represent the leaders and best with pride.
This is the strength of the student government: its students. Contrary to claims by some candidates, CSG cannot take on the administration or Lansing alone, but with the leadership of Shreya Singh, Ethan Hahn and the youMICH party, CSG will use its resources and brilliant minds to help facilitate real opportunities for students to do things like engage the administration in fireside talks or combat the effects of higher tuition through streamlined financial aid information. We cannot and should not expect the student government or individual candidates to get the constitution of the state of Michigan amended in order to place a student regent on the University’s Board of Regents. Nor should we expect our student leaders to be able to overturn decades of legal and legislative precedents to offer illegal immigrants in-state tuition. All candidates in this election obviously support the idea of greater student representation and involvement, but putting these lofty goals and issues at the forefront of your agenda distracts the student government from actually achieving something real and tangible for students on campus.
Others have claimed that the youMICH party’s plans plans are “small”. I would instead describe them as focused. I would describe them as pragmatic. Big change in the student government, the University administration or in the state of Michigan will not come from applying the same political nonsense through the same rhetoric that we have seen over and over again at CSG, but rather through realistic, pragmatic goals that the Central Student Government can actually pursue to engage students in these issues. And the best way to create change on campus is for CSG to empower students and student organizations to be the ones to create that change.
As SOFC vice-chair, I would like to encourage student leaders on campus to carefully review each candidate’s plans toward student organization funding. The CSG student organization funding process is a critical component of CSG’s impact and benefit to campus. Blanket statements to “improve” or “reform” student organization funding, or even proposals for a one-size-fits-all “common app” for funding should be strongly questioned, and changes proposed by parties that include such language could easily result in student organizations facing gaps in funding or seriously delayed turnover in decisions. With their experience, Shreya Singh and Ethan Hahn comprise the team with the most knowledge and experience with the funding system, best prepared to make changes that actually function to service the students. If you no longer wish to accept the same old large and disconnected promises, vote youMICH and vote for Shreya Singh and Ethan Hahn for CSG this March 21-22 — use your vote to put the “student” back into student government.
Michael Budros is an LSA junior and vice-chair of CSG’s Student Organization Funding Commission.