What CSG Needs: momentUM
Published to Facebook on March 20th, 2018
by Nicholas Fadanelli and Breanna DeCocker
This year has seen advocacy around several important campus issues - such as renaming C.C. Little, amending the Academic Calendar for a longer winter break, releasing course evaluation and grade distribution data, improving final exam policies, and the implementation and expansion of the DEI plan - championed not by the Central Student Government, but rather by school/college governments such as LSA Student Government and Engineering Student Government, or through the collective voice of school/college governments - the University Council.
Instead, what the student body has seen from CSG this year have been attempts at paying themselves, the botched release of a potentially valuable Campus Affordability Guide, and tepid statements of support with little follow through.
What happened to the mental health initiatives and the push for a North Campus Wellness Center? What happened to the push for increased student organization funding and better student access to extracurricular activities? What happened to attempts at actually improving the affordability of student housing? What happened to all of the projects from the previous administration that have been seemingly abandoned?
We can all agree that there are things that need to be improved.
An observation that we have made during our times in LSA SG and ESG, is that at a University as large and complex as the University of Michigan, it simply takes time to become familiar enough with the institution in order to find the best ways to improve it and create tangible changes, let alone actually implement them. Many of the academic policies that the school/college governments work on take years to implement - and it is imperative that knowledge, projects, and experience are transferred between administrations, and that projects are not left behind.
Whilst many school/college governments - like LSA SG and ESG - are led by members who have a minimum of three years of experience, many CSG leaders have one year or less. Experience and knowledge about how both the University and its student governments work are imperative to a successful administration - as it could mean the difference between being able to succeed at advancing and completing long term projects while initiating your own, or being limited to solely short-term, low impact projects that will have at best minimal impact on campus.
The issues that currently exist with CSG do not stem from a shortage of vision, nor a lack of motivated individuals, nor insufficient Michigan maize and blue spirit. The problems stem from a lack of institutional knowledge, both of the University and CSG itself, a lack of experience working with the issues that matter, and a lack of continuity and work on long term projects between administrations - a lack of momentUM.
We and the leaders of momentUM have been known to publicly disagree on various issues, but even when we have disagreed we have found A.J., Charlie, and many members of the momentUM team to be knowledgeable on the issues at hand, open to discussion and disagreement, willing to admit when they make mistakes, and more importantly recognizing and accepting of the fact that many issues are incredibly nuanced and have many shades of grey. It is easy to demand a student on the board of regents, reorganization of student fees, extended bus hours, or more ex officio seats on the Assembly; or to voice support for students on the raw end of the current topic of campus debate - which is not to say that all of these are even good policies to call for. It is still quite different to make those things reality - especially when it comes to accounting for the often unforeseen consequences that may occur with making a public declaration in favor of a plan - let alone implementing it.
A.J., Charlie, and the rest of momentUM have the experience, work ethic, and institutional knowledge to truly make a difference on campus. Not only do A.J. and Charlie have a tremendous amount of both executive and legislative experience; they are also passionate and knowledgeable regarding the issues impacting campus. At the CSG Daily Debate, A.J. and Charlie’s responses to the questions asked were filled with detailed descriptions both of the issues at hand and how they would approach solving them.
On issues like affordable housing they showed their knowledge on the issue by not just calling for new ordinances, like re-extending the elapsed time required before landlords can ask tenants to re-sign their leases, but also calling for currently existing laws to be enforced. Specifically, they cited that ordinances already exist that make it so cleaning fees cannot be assessed for routine maintenance, but that these are not enforced by the City of Ann Arbor, and that the solution is working with the city to both enforce current laws, while calling for new laws, or really a return to old, repealed laws.
On Divestment, while other candidates danced around the issue or gave catered one-sided answers, A.J. and Charlie spoke on the nuances behind the issue at hand, but also addressed the broken politics of the Divest vote. How other votes in CSG have turned into essentially proxy votes for Divestment, how individuals are quick to label CSG representatives as for or against Divestment based on the color of their skin or the religion of those in CSG that they work for. They bravely exposed the elephant in the room - that the issue of Divestment, as prominent as the annual debate is, is not the most important or only thing CSG needs to or should focus on. It is just one of a host of issues. Yet the broken politics surrounding this one turn too many other issues into a proxy or referendum on Divestment…. don’t let this election be like that.
They not only know what the issues are, but how to solve them, and lay the framework now for the successful implementation of long-term projects.
That is why we will be voting for momentUM in the upcoming CSG elections, and encourage you to do the same.
Nicholas Fadanelli is an LSA senior and President of LSA Student Government
Breanna DeCocker is an Engineering Senior and President of Engineering Student Government
Note: Neither LSA student Government nor Engineering Student Government have endorsed A.J., Charlie, or momentUM.
Making Government Work Better
By A.J. Ashman
For most students, CSG elections means being overwhelmed with flyers, professionally-taken profile pictures, and a level of enthusiasm from candidates that often seems insincere. Having never served as a Representative in CSG, I can relate to a certain apprehension about the way campaigns unfold on this campus. As former Chief of Staff to the Vice President, I am in much more familiar territory when it comes to talking about the issues. Allow me to explain why talking about the issues excites me, my VP Charlie Bingham, and the entire momentUM team, so much.
I hail from Howard County, Maryland. Those from the DMV will recognize that as a nice area, and it is; when I was growing up there, it was our country’s richest county. The caveat is that I was not in one of those Maryland McMansions. No, I grew up on housing assistance. Attending this school requires financial aid and a job, in addition to the work I do for CSG and my schoolwork as a Mechanical Engineering major.
I do not think my situation is unique, and I am not complaining because I think I have it unusually hard; silent suffering is an epidemic on this campus and in this country. I share those details about my journey firstly, because they made me into the person I am today, and secondly, because I have seen the potential of CSG to address the most pressing concerns of our student body. CSG can, should, and must be a fierce advocate for students on those most pressing issues.
One of the most important legs of our platform deals with improving our government relations on all levels -- with the University, as well as the city and county. It is hard enough when students have to worry about succeeding in class, thriving socially, and laying down the roots for a good career; CSG has the ability to help fight the battles that are too big for any one student, such as unfair rental practices and limited voting access. CSG can also be proactive; instead of merely addressing problems, it can examine what can be done better to promote more positive outcomes, like opening up more academic buildings as study spaces at night and bringing back a late night bus for South U and off-campus housing.
Let’s start with housing affordability. From my personal experience and from my work in CSG, I know quite a bit about how difficult a thing as simple as housing can be. Ann Arbor is the 8th-most segregated mid-sized city in the country. High-rise properties are popping up everywhere these days. The density is not what I take issue with; students that live closer to campus can participate more easily in all that our campus has to offer. But this is an area where improved government relations can help us. Our platform calls for CSG to work with Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County to raise the downtown height limit, continue to upzone the downtown area to allow for more housing supply thereby driving down rental costs, and work on creative new ways to bring inclusionary zoning ordinances to the area so that a certain portion of new properties and space can go to low-income residents.
Our platform also calls for the reinstitution of the Ann Arbor Tenants’ Union (AATU). Comprised of students, volunteers, and professionals, the student body deserves advocacy on a consistent basis for tenants. Too often, landlords get off scot-free when they burden their tenants, such as by charging cleaning fees for regular wear and tear. You won’t hear it from them, but that’s illegal. Similarly, students should know which renters to trust and which do not have good ratings from the community and from students. Beyond the Diag, CSG, and the AATU can all help address that uncertainty. The bad behavior of some landlords in the city can no longer be dismissed as “business as usual”; our campaign knows what those practices really are, and what they must be called: injustices.
Voting, too, is another area where better government will produce better results. I’m proud to say that I co-wrote and passed a resolution last year calling for the University not to hold classes on Election Day. Why? In 2016, some students had to choose between waiting in line at the Union to vote or missing valuable class time. Similarly, I had to pay a hefty price for an Uber to get to my polling location. Not everyone can afford to spend $30 to exercise their basic right to vote. Voting is important, and it is simply absurd that some have to choose between being a good citizen and being a good student.
Every student allowed to vote deserves the right to exercise it without being excessively burdened. That is why my campaign proposes opening dorms as polling locations. We must also continue the work of the Big Ten Voter Challenge in registering students to vote; if we’re truly the Leaders and Best, then our students won’t shy away from the responsibility of impacting our affairs. Let’s train RA’s so that they can register their residents to vote.
My team has worked hard to develop this platform, and I encourage you to see for yourself how detailed we are in our desires; if we win, we know what we want to do with our opportunity and our political capital from day one. Charlie, myself, and the entire momentUM team are ready to do the heavy lifting required to ensure that our student body is heard and that students’ needs are addressed.
Published by the Michigan Daily Sunday, March 11th, 2018
By Charlie Bingham
"It’s not that my family members 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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
Published in the Michigan Daily Wednesday, February 21st, 2018
by Kaela Theut and Maya Goldman, Daily News Editors
Published in the Michigan Daily Thursday, February 15th, 2018
by A.J. Ashman