During my past four years on campus, as a former editor for this publication and as a student interested in campus policy, I’ve paid a lot of attention to Central Student Government elections. Each year, I can tell when campus has hit the peak of the election season — when I start seeing something from one of the parties on social media repeatedly.
This year, it looks like you, Movement, might get that honor. Over the past few days, I’ve been seeing your rap video frequently — but it’s been in an unusual way. Usually, people share CSG things because they think they’re funny, or because they’re interested in the party’s ideas. This time, I’ve been seeing it from people who think your video is offensive, myself included. In four years of these videos, I’ve yet to see one as tone-deaf or concerning.
I’m not going to spell out all the reasons why, because frankly, there are too many of them, ranging from having women only appear for five seconds to gaze adoringly at your candidate to your presidential candidate calling himself the “white George Washington Carver.” Delegitimizing people’s lived campus experiences or calling yourself the white version of anybody shouldn’t be a part of a campaign, nor should personally attacking candidates for their educational paths. It’s a display of privilege, plain and simple.
Nonetheless, if it was just the video, I might not have felt compelled to write this. And I want to acknowledge that after much defense of the video — including a statement from your presidential candidate that anybody who was offended shouldn’t be because it was “fun,” not serious — you did apologize during The Michigan Daily’s CSG debate. However, the point is that it’s not the just the video — there’s a similar ethos in your platform and your slate, which is notably less diverse than the other parties, that I hope you also choose to revisit and think more about in light of the feedback you’ve received.
Your “Mental Health Wake Up,” a proposal for a yearly lecture on mental health, is a key example. Combatting mental health issues on campus is fantastic and well-needed. But saying the way to deal with it is by broadcasting that “we all have hardships and struggles throughout our time here,” as quoted from your website, is trivializing. It’s true that many, if not all, University of Michigan students will struggle during their time here, and it’s important to recognize that. But mental health issues aren’t just a “hardship.” They’re medical facts with debilitating impacts on people’s lives. Using your language is akin to equating sadness to depression or stress to anxiety disorders. And while a lecture is lovely, it won’t address the systemic lack of mental health resources on campus that students and the University have consistently identified as the most pressing issue in this arena.
Your “Send the Elevator” initiative also lacks awareness. Encouraging the University to do outreach in low-socioeconomic status communities is great (and in fact, it’s already doing it, though more can definitely be done). What’s troubling is your insistence that it should be “students from similar backgrounds” doing the outreach. Having low-SES students connect with people who have faced similar challenges is reasonable and likely helpful. Where it becomes concerning is when you make it primarily their responsibility to mentor and encourage more low-SES students to come here. Everyone on this campus is accountable for this kind of work (and I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t done nearly as much as I could), and to place it on the shoulders of low-SES students, who often are balancing more commitments with their time regardless, is problematic.
I don’t have the space to address the rest of your platform, but I want to note this — none of your specific 10 initiatives touch on ways to improve diversity, though your pillars do. Many of your initiatives instead touch on things that are only one-time events, are highly logistically challenging (such as redesigning the School of Education’s curriculum) or call for things already in place (to me, a “Committee of Student Action and Unity” sounds like what a student government is already supposed to do).
I want to give credit where it’s due — I like your proposals to improve lighting on Central Campus and increase SafeRide hours. I haven’t seen prior candidates pitch something like your “4 Years” initiative, which I think is an interesting approach to helping students succeed. And to be clear, I don’t want anyone who runs for CSG to fail. Running for a position like this asks a lot, and I respect that you’ve put yourself out there and devoted time to something that, at its best, can make meaningful impacts on campus.
Your platform repeatedly states that your focus is “taking this campus back and giving it to the students,” as well as making sure the University lives up to its name. The thing is, your statements, your rap, your platform exemplify the reasons this campus doesn’t feel like home or like it’s living up to its potential, for me and many other students. If you truly want to represent us, please take criticism like this to heart for your platform as well. This, right now, is the time to be serious.
Shoham Geva is an LSA senior and a former Editor in Chief of The Michigan Daily.