As we mentioned in our monthly speech Feb. 16 before the Board of Regents, we believe that one “of the greatest dangers facing this campus … is a pervasive culture of apathy, whereby many students unaffected by (racist, white supremacist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic) attacks do not engage in the critical and unending work that is necessary to advance a more just, fair and inclusive campus, University community and society.” 

All of us students, regardless of our backgrounds and identities, must care deeply about diversity, equity and inclusion-related work. We must embrace the notion of allyhood and embody its values through sustained action and activism, especially against the backdrop of the difficult year with which our campus and community have dealt.

Now, why is this the case? One, everyone deserves the chance to thrive and find a home — to feel safe and secure, respected and valued — on our campus. Two, diversity, equity and inclusion benefit all of us: Countless studies have shown us that progress and innovation are catalyzed when people with different lived and learned experiences, viewpoints and backgrounds come together to learn with and from each other.

For these reasons, over the past year, Central Student Government has put diversity, equity and inclusion at the forefront of our work. It guides our every decision and inspires each initiative and program that we launch — both inside and outside of the organization.

Let’s start by acknowledging that CSG has much more work to do in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion; the Demographic Report that we commissioned back in September highlighted the homogeneity of our organization. This is unacceptable for any organization, but especially one whose purpose is to represent every University of Michigan student.

We believe that part of this issue can be addressed by improving our Governing Documents, which currently outline how CSG Assembly seats are apportioned. To enhance these documents, and to strengthen the organization’s internal diversity, we convened a Constitutional Convention. The convention has proposed amendments, to be voted on by the student body in the upcoming March elections, that will create specialized seats for first-year, transfer and international students, which we believe will help to diversify CSG.  

We must also recognize that the best way to enhance CSG’s diversity is to expand the pool of people who get involved in the organization as candidates for the Assembly or members of a commission. Last month, for instance, we hosted a pre-election information meeting, with the goal of providing the opportunity for more students without any prior student government experience to become engaged in the election process. The meeting was a success, bringing together students from across the University with different histories of organizational involvement and leadership.

We are also proud to have executed our campaign promise of ensuring that members of the CSG Executive Team and Assembly undergo intergroup relations training. The foundation of this training is to build an understanding of how one’s social identities impact interpersonal relationships. It is likewise essential in fostering a more inclusive environment within CSG — an absolute necessity, as we continuously work with students of many different lived and learned experiences.  

Our administration has also overseen the re-emergence and growth of the Diversity and Inclusion Commission. This commission has been very effective, promoting a number of different initiatives and programs, including University recognition of Indigenous People’s Day and the establishment of the Student Support & Action Committee. A committee for and by students, the SSAC aims to provide continuous support for students through monthly activities designed to spread positivity throughout campus. Such events might include hosting group dialogues and the flyering of positive messages.

In efforts to encourage inclusivity, allyhood and continued support for students, CSG also launched a campus-wide campaign in November called It Starts With Me. The campaign calls on students to stand against all forms of racism and discrimination. This campaign offers a way for students to step up, call in and try to make a difference through their actions. Thus far, students all across campus have participated in this campaign, from the men’s basketball team to the glee club.

Our proudest accomplishment in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion is the establishment of the Leadership Engagement Scholarship. This fund, the first of its kind at the University, acts as a “tool of equity” in that it seeks to level the playing field and support the extracurricular pursuits of University students with demonstrated financial need. Since we launched this initiative to the University community in October, with the help of University development, we have raised more than $150,000 for this scholarship. We deeply believe in the potential of this fund to strengthen intra-organizational diversity and better the experiences of many deserving student leaders.

Much work remains to be done in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion, both within CSG and at the University. But, we remain hopeful. There are scores of dedicated faculty and staff members, administrators and, of course, students, who have worked tirelessly to elevate our shared community so that it better reflects our very best selves, our highest ideals and certainly the rich diversity of the greater society.

Going forward, it will be imperative that students of all backgrounds, identities and types of campus involvement, including future CSG leaders, hold the administration and its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategic plan, which aims to “creat[e] a vibrant, diverse and inclusive campus,” to the highest standards. As long as we continue to do this — as long as we challenge the status quo and believe in the promise of tomorrow — we are confident in our ability as students to lead change and drive progress.  

David Schafer and Micah Griggs are LSA seniors.

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