Why I'm Running - A.J. Ashman

I grew up the son of a single mother who put herself through college while raising two kids. I vividly remember days as a kid when my mother would take me with her to college. She expected my sister and I to go to college when the time came. We also knew, however, that there wouldn’t be much in the way of savings to pay for it. My attendance at the University of Michigan is, in many ways, made possible by a stroke of luck.

From my first days on campus as a freshman serving on Hall Council, to my time as a recruiter for the University and the College of Engineering, to my work on CSG, I get up every day with the goal of trying to pay forward the many gifts I’ve been given in my short time here. We’ve built a lot of momentum toward a more equitable campus for all. This coming school year, we must pick up the mantle and carry on that work. I’ll be fighting to earn your vote to become the next CSG President so that we can continue the important mission of promoting justice and facilitating success for students of all backgrounds.

I’ve seen firsthand both CSG’s great potential and its shortcomings. When students committed to service come together on this campus, amazing things can happen. But a culture of self-interest and division fractures the fundamental trust between student government and students. Many students confess to me that CSG is a non-factor in their Michigan experience. While some get by just fine without it, many others find themselves in great need of the advocacy and assistance that CSG can provide. Our leadership must be united to have an impact. That’s why I’m running with LSA Representative Charlie Bingham, a junior majoring in political science and my good friend.

Charlie and I are of the same mind when it comes to the responsibility CSG has towards the people it serves. My faith in him is ironclad, not just because we are like-minded on that most fundamental responsibility, but because he’s not afraid to disagree with me when the course of action isn’t clear.

The course of action on the issues facing our campus is rarely clear. What our campaign seeks to do is foster a discussion about the policies we believe are most important — a robust, process-oriented agenda with justice for students as our North Star. On our campaign’s website, you can see our platform in its entirety. As our school makes plans to increase enrollment, we must be ready to adapt. Our team is ready to get to work for the student body, with the intent of increasing resources for mental and physical well being; academic affairs such as textbook affordability and adopting successful Big Ten measures to promote student success; government relations, including expanding voting and housing rights; and issues of sustainability and representation that can make the campus a better place down the road. In the coming weeks, we intend to publish several policy memos so as to prove that the talk about our governance goes beyond conjecture.

There are some battles that will seem unwinnable. But for our prosperity and for the sake of students yet to attend, we are obligated to rise to the challenge, to meet the problems head-on with a mind toward one day solving them. It is fruitless to identify a problem without attempting to tackle it.

When it comes to securing justice for all students, we have our work cut out for us. We also have a great deal of momentum to capitalize on. Student government has always been the clearest way to for me to promote justice. As your CSG President and Vice President, we will endeavor to serve with honor and dedication; to build new programs that help people feel more at home here and reshape their relationship with the University of Michigan; to tear down barriers that have led to negative experiences for so many on our campus; to tackle the issues that affect us today and in the future. The strides we collectively take will determine our progress. This is our moment to define that progress.

The Campaign Ahead of Us - Charlie Bingham

I come from a family of ministers, teachers, and members of the military; service is an intrinsic aspect of my life. It’s not that they made it look easy, or quick, or simple, because the work of serving others is never over. But they carried themselves with a sense of hope that always saw them through the challenges at hand. In my eyes, they were superheroes for that. Representing Michigan as its Youth Governor in 2014, I heard the Martin Luther King Jr. quote that made me realize that I, too, had the potential to make a difference:  “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.”

        As a kid, I looked up to my family. As a junior majoring in Political Science, and as an LSA Representative in CSG, I still do. But now is the time to do more than just look up and look on. We must stand and act with conviction, shoulder-to-shoulder with our heroes and leaders. With momentUM at my back and A.J. Ashman at the top of the ticket, I’m running for CSG Vice President so that I can help make the changes and connections that will bring greater equity to the students experiences across this campus.

        When A.J. first approached me about running with him, we talked about the issues we saw as most pressing. We talked about housing affordability, the challenges posed by rising enrollment, and room for improvement in the first-year experience. We talked about the ever-increasing prices of textbooks, strengthening the relationship between CSG and City Council, and the prevention of sexual violence here on campus. It was a tough conversation to have, because as important as these issues are, they aren’t battles that will be won overnight.

        What really makes A.J. and I tick, however, is our hope; the belief that what we need to accomplish our goals is not beyond us. Even when we can’t see the finish line, we persevere knowing that someone will grab the baton from us and carry on the important work of serving others. We seek to carry on the momentum of the leaders among and before us, but we can’t do it if we don’t act as a team.

A.J. and I balance each other out. Having served as an Executive Chief of Staff for CSG, A.J. intimately understands the internal mechanisms of CSG. He knows how best to weaponize its vast networks for the betterment of students. With such extensive experience, however, it’s crucial to also fully understand the perspective of those outside of CSG.

To serve in Student Government is a privilege – nothing could change that. But CSG cannot be a bubble of self-interest. A disconnect between public servants and their constituents prevents change from happening and promotes distrust. Coming out of Flint, Michigan, I learned firsthand what it felt like to be frustrated with government inaction. I know what it tastes like not to be represented.

When I started serving as an LSA Rep, my goal was to bring the outside in. I knew from my own experience on campus that there were countless student organizations doing great work, with great ideas yet to come to fruition. Of course, they also shoulder their fair share of pressing issues. Serving on the campus climate committee, I want students to know that they are not alone in their frustration with inaction; A.J. and I feel it, too.

CSG is at its best when CSG is the people. We don’t want this to be a campaign comprised merely of talking or listening without acting on the dialogue we have. Running is about more than the competition and the quest for winning the most votes; it’s about bolstering community, creating awareness, enacting positive changes, and carrying the work forward for those who come after you. Running is an investment in the University; if successful, we can leave behind a legacy of service and progress.