CSG Candidate Profile: eMpower
By Hannah Harshe
To Lloyd Lyons, the University of Michigan means tradition. His siblings attended the university before he did, his brother met his wife here, and his cousins attend the university currently. They’ve all experienced the excitement of walking across the diag during Festifall, of looking around the stadium at a home football game, and of feeling as though they’ve found what they’re passionate about in this world.
“This university gives everyone that goes here the opportunity to carve out their own path or whatever route they want to go,” Lyons says.
Except when it doesn’t.
Lyons notes that U of M is rife with barriers. There is a lack of representation in leadership, there is food and housing insecurity, there are monetary barriers to participating in student organizations. Simply because of who he is as person, Lyons is not inclined to sit around and accept these barriers for what they are. When he sees such deeply-rooted problems in the university he loves so much, he’s compelled to do something about it. He wants the resources to most effectively create change on campus. For that reason, Lyons is running for Central Student Government President.
Lyons, along with his running mate, Vice Presidential candidate Frank Guzman, compose the executive ticket for the party eMpower.
“Getting involved last year and being involved on campus and seeing how much work I could implement to make change on campus, was definitely something that I wanted to be a part of,” Lyons says. We’re sitting outside of the Starbucks at the Union, and I’m recording them on my laptop, but it doesn’t feel like an interview. Lyons and Guzman are both distinctively laid-back and confident. They’re undoubtedly passionate, but it doesn’t make them threatening or intimidating. They know what they’re talking about, and they talk about it with ease and fluency.
“When the opportunity came to run with Lloyd, I couldn’t say no,” Guzman adds. “I think with two men of color, that’s typically a disenfranchised population within CSG, I think we can really make big changes.”
Lyons, who has served as a CSG representative for both LSA and the School of Public Health, and currently serves as the Ethics Chair, will be returning to U of M in the fall for his fifth year.
“The LSA rep and SPH rep are very similar. You’re just representing a different population of people,” he explains. “This is the first year of the undergrad program [for SPH], so I was able to represent my undergrad class but also the grad school. A lot of grad students in public health don’t always see CSG as an option, so it was a way to be a voice.”
As ethics chair, Lyons had to conduct one of the only ethics investigations to occur in CSG. “It was a new experience. It can be a hostile environment when dealing with ethics investigations, but I knew that I had a duty, and I got called in to do this, and I needed to carry it out.”
Guzman, Lyons’ running mate, has been involved in CSG since he first arrived on campus. He serves as a senior representative and Vice Chair of the Executive Nominations Committee.
“I’ve gotten a feel for what works in CSG, what doesn’t, and the kinds of things that we can actually feasibly change and how we can feasibly make the campus better,” he says.
Guzman is particularly passionate about activism, which he often does through lobbying. “I started lobbying in high school,” he explains. “I was part of an advisory committee for the superintendent of our school district, so I did a lot of lobbying on behalf of students, advocating for change we wanted to see within the district.”
Since graduating high school, he has lobbied for the Lecturers’ Employee Organization to advocate for better wages for lecturers and lobbied in the Michigan State Capitol for affirmative consent-based sex education. He says, “The issues that I’ve found most prevalent are the ones that can actually feasibly be changed. You wouldn’t want to waste your time on something that can’t ever happen. Anything that’s found almost universally important by the student body, I think, is definitely worthy of lobbying for.”
One of the biggest points on eMpower’s platform is accessibility to student experience.
“Last winter break, I traveled abroad to Israel for eleven days,” Lyons recalls. “It was a life-changing experience. I’m not Jewish, but I’m Christian. I follow Catholicism, and to see the birthplace of three major religions and to be able to meet a group of people from around the country—to just spend time and relax and reflect and learn, not just about the people around me, but to learn about myself—it was just an opportunity that I wish so many more people could have. There’s so much in the world to explore, and nothing should hold you back.”
Unfortunately, especially at the University of Michigan, there is plenty that holds students back. Lyons is cognisant of this. “Somebody may be in the stretch to get money to go on a trip, to get an internship, to relocate themselves,” he says. “That shouldn’t be something that is a barrier for you, to stop you...I’ve felt the rejection of the university not giving funds. I don’t want to put that all on my family to pay for things like that. We're a school of so many resources that we should be able to adventure, learn, or explore.”
Accessibility to student experience begins with accessibility to the most fundamental of resources on campus: food.
“Ann Arbor is a food desert,” Lyons says. “No grocery stores within the radius of being able to obtain healthy food. We have 40,000 people on campus. We should have a grocery store a lot closer, or we should be able to get people to a grocery store. And with that, there is a lot of food insecurity as well. People don’t know where their next meal is coming from or how they’re gonna get it.”
Lyons notes a plan that would allow students to donate their dining hall guest swipes to students in need.
“The dining hall has so much food every day, and not everybody uses guest swipes,” he explains. “So if I don’t use all of mine, it’s a way to give back to the community.”
“On top of that, another thing we want to accomplish in terms of food insecurity is creating some type of neighborhood market,” Guzman adds. “They’re doing something very similar in the Michigan League. I believe they’re trying to get rid of Beanster’s and start some kind of neighborhood market. If we can build another one on North Campus that’s more accessible to students who live on North, I think it would be something that would be really beneficial.”
Guzman is quick to note that he and Lyons are both men of color, which is not a group that has been traditionally represented within CSG. He hopes that this perspective will allow them to better serve students from minority groups.
“We’re here to empower communities that have typically never seen these kinds of voices heard before,” Guzman says. “Last year’s CSG election cycle, we saw a lot of underrepresented minorities finally get to hold some major positions and make some really good change on campus. We want to prove that it wasn’t just a one-time thing. It wasn’t just a shot in the dark. It was that minorities can make just as big of a change on campus as anyone else can.”
Having been involved with the Latinx Alliance for Community Action, Support, and Advocacy (La Casa), Guzman is particularly knowledgeable about the issues that affect latinx students on campus.
“One of the most glaring things that was brought up is that there’s zero Hispanic senior officials on campus,” he says. “Latin American students make up 6% of the population on campus, so to have no person that looks like us in a leadership role can be a little discouraging. You want to see someone that looks like you being successful at the university, that you can strive to become. I think part of what we want to do is empower minorities to believe that they’re able to take on leadership roles on campus and change the campus for the better.”
For eMpower, a huge part of increasing representation is cross campus collaboration, which allows groups that wouldn’t typically associate to work together on a project.
“Our campus is 46,000 students,” Lyons explains. “I’ve noticed that it gets really hard when we’re trying to collaborate or work on event or think of an idea, but you are scared to reach out or don’t know that another group has perfected that type of event.”
Cross campus collaboration facilitated by CSG would encourage groups with similar goals to work together on projects and events.
“It may be completely different as to the makeup of the group and the name of the group, but it’s a clear way to get people connected or to expand that network of the university,” Lyons continues. “This is a place that we call home. There are so many people here, and so many experiences here, that it’s important to be able to talk and relate with each each other on that level.”
Guzman and Lyons want to make a change on campus because they truly believe in the power of this university.
“Ann Arbor, the city itself and the University of Michigan as an institution, is full of very politically active students,” Guzman says. “I think it’s a really inclusive place, despite people’s political views or ideologies. Most people have a home where they can voice their opinion and express that...I think one of the biggest things about entering college and transitioning into adulthood is finding your political voice. I think the University of Michigan is really unique in how it helps you find that.”