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Thomas Hislop and Cameron Dotson: Your Michigan Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mich chapter.

Name: Thomas Hislop

Year: Class of 2017

Major: Ford School of Public Policy

Hometown: Cambridge, MA

Fun Fact: I almost got Michigan a technical foul when I was in a dance-off at the Wisconsin basketball game last year.


Name: Cameron Dotson

Year: Class of 2017

Major: Sport Management

Hometown: East Lansing, MI

Fun Fact: Ultralight Beam is probably my favorite song ever.


Her Campus: How was Your Michigan formed?

Thomas Hislop: Cam and I were both representatives this year. We really enjoyed our experience on the assembly, but I think we also saw that a lot needed to change. We started having side conversations about the state of campus, the state of CSG, and what we thought was and wasn’t working, as well as our general frustrations with the process. As I came into second semester, this translated into a conversation of “Maybe we could be that change. Maybe we could be that next chapter of CSG and have a huge positive impact on this campus.” All of a sudden, that conversation became very real. I think our message from the start was that we really want to give ownership back to the student body. There’s 43,000 students on this campus; let’s make sure they’re heard. Let’s make sure that these policies really represent the diverse campus we have. That idea is where “Your Michigan” came from.

Cameron Dotson: Thomas and I had talked about this before. It wasn’t like, “We can do this.” It was, “We SHOULD do this.” This is something we’re both very passionate about. We’re both very passionate about The University of Michigan, the students, and the activities that go on here. We have a great team of kids who have also helped come up with this idea of Your Michigan and “your voice” – we thought that it really captured everything that we stood for.


HC: What kinds of tangible goals do you have for the coming school year, if you were to be elected? What is it about them that makes them tangible?

CD: We believe that everything we have on our platform is tangible. Maybe, if we can’t do it within the next week or in the week after that, it’s something that we can lay the groundwork for, so that future Central Student Governments can keep progressing and really push that change we’re ultimately trying to make. For example, someone might look at some of the things we have to say about SAPAC and say, “Wow, that’s super big. I don’t know if you guys can do all that.” But, really, it’s about promoting a little bit here and improving something there. We can then really see a long, outstanding growth in anything we’re trying to do. Something that we think is also tangible is inner-city outreach. That’s something I’m really passionate about, and I know it’s something that, if we can urge the administration a bit more, we could maybe be able to see an improved demographic on this campus. It’s something we think could really help the population of the student body.

TH:  To echo that, every year, when you have this transition from last president to the next president, so often you have these great ideas and initiatives that were started that are just dropped, and they disappear. It’s so important that we continue the good work that’s being done, but that we also look to the future and think about how to set up that next president in 5-10 years to accomplish the goals that we’re starting now. This year, Cooper and I started working on testing accommodation centers. Right now, there’s a lack of resources when it comes to these testing accommodation centers on campus. There’s only the basement of the MLB, and it’s only open to LSA students. We started to address that, and [Cooper] is bringing it forward to the regents. But you can’t go into the next year and have no one pick up that ball. The idea is that we need to continue to go forward and to continue to push the regents on issues like that. Everything from the Maize Rage to expanding SAPAC funding – those things can’t happen in a single year; you need to lay the groundwork. It comes down to those little things that are tangible in just a single year. The good thing is that Cam and I are both coming in with experience, and we understand how this works. We’ve really been immersed in this, we understand where to go to, and we have those contacts at this point. That makes a big difference.


HC: Generally speaking, what makes Your Michigan’s platform different from other parties in this election? How should students differentiate between these parties?

TH: I hate to harp on what we’ve already talked about, but I really do think that our focus is not only tangible goals, but it’s also on the goals that students truly care about and have brought forth to us. One party launched right away, put their platform right up online, and that was their choice, and I respect that, but we wanted to make sure, before we launched any platform, that we had people come to us and talk to us. “Hey listen, I have this issue with testing accommodation. There’s nowhere to take my tests, and I’m hearing impaired. Frankly, it’s really annoying to take a test that should be from 6-8 at night, but I’m taking it at 6 in the morning because that’s just the way the scheduling works out.” That’s frustrating to hear. “Hey, I’m on the club sports team, and I hear that Panhel has an amazing Peer Educator program that supports every single chapter when it comes to sexual misconduct. I want to talk to you about that resource because I would love to see this expanded to us.” Those conversations were so important and so vital to creating what is now our platform. As we continue to find representatives, and as we continue to build a team, it’s still evolving.

CD: The family aspect our team has. I can’t speak for the other teams because I don’t know how close-knit they are, but we really take pride in being able to work together and bring that energy to empower the students and to empower the reps and to empower the street team. We think our family-type environment brings in a lot of passion, and it really gets these kids excited.

TH: Cam and I have a personal relationship that no other competition could ever compete with. Frankly, we’ve been good friends for years, we have this kind of friendship where we’re just messing around and just listening to TLOP. The fact that we can come together and discuss serious issues and also, outside of that, come together and hangout, I think is so important.

CD: It also makes it easier for us to challenge each other. If I see that Thomas is doing something that I really don’t like, it’s easy for me to say “Thomas, I really don’t think you should be doing that,” and vice-versa.


HC: What sort of qualities are you looking for in a representative candidate for your party?

CD: We’re honestly looking for students with passion. We want students to be passionate about something on campus and to stay passionate about it. That’s something we’re really trying to hit on, as our reps are not only going to campaign for the semester, but stay involved next semester and the semester after that, to make sure that they’re really seeing these things through. We want to have reps that come from diverse communities across campus. We want to see them have that spark in their eyes, we want to see that they want to see change and that we can see them working for that change.

TH: We want to make sure our representatives are prepared for this because this is a huge commitment. In past years, representatives are chosen at the last minute, and they just don’t know what they’re doing because they don’t know the issues. Frankly, they were just chosen because they know a lot of people on campus. You just can’t have that. This is too important. We decided this year we’re going to do interviews for every single person that applies. They’re going to have to show that, if they don’t know a ton right now about these important issues on campus, they have the determination to find out and to learn and to work hard. It’s of course easy to look at a paper resume, but when you talk to people and you see where they’re really at, that’s when you can tell who’s ready to do this and who we can really trust.

CD: The fact that maybe they’re not really versed on every campus issue right now, but that they have some ideas about things that are going on is crucial.  We really want to be able to help that person grow throughout this. I know I grew so much last year throughout this process, and I learned so much about what’s going on all over campus.


HC: Your site breaks down your proposals into the following categories: Safety, Wellness, Community, Education, and Michigan Spirit. Which of these categories, if any, resonates with you the most? What actions would you take to combat the issues within this category?

TH: It’s a funny one to pick, but I think in a lot of ways Spirit is the lifeblood of this campus. It’s really what unites us and brings us together from the very start of coming to campus. So much of what we do revolves around things like ensuring that we have an incredible experience at sporting events and ensuring that students feel that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. There’s a part of their identity they share with everyone across campus. The spirit of Michigan helps make sure that the future [Michigan] Union, after renovations are made in 2018, is a place that students can call home; a place where student organizations can call home, where students feel comfortable going to see the mental health spaces or, frankly, to Student Government meetings in the future. That’s so important, and it’s something that Cam has done a lot of work on. I, personally, have done a lot of work on changes in the Maize Rage – it’s one of those things where you look back on your time at Michigan and think of the biggest events. So often it’s, unfortunately, games like Michigan State’s last-minute loss. That really does, in a way, define so many students’ experiences in their time here. To have that resonate with these students and have a moment where they feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves translates beyond a Saturday – it translates into a Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

CD: For me, it’s 100% the Community aspect. Being a part of the 4% of this campus that is African American, it’s crazy to see that there are so few students who look like me. Not even in numbers, but how students are treated on this campus. I think it starts with increasing the representation of minority students, so that everyone can interact with each other. I feel like the best way to learn is through interaction – doing things like the Peer Educator program, where students learn how to talk to each other and learn from each other. A lot of the time, students don’t understand how to talk and take things in. They just speak at each other, and they might just say something that comes off as arrogant or ignorant, and they wouldn’t know it is arrogant because they haven’t had the training. I really think that the Community aspect, whether it’s increasing representation of minorities or making sure that all of these students can respectfully talk and engage in productive discussions, is all really important. Coming here, I was really intimidated, and I know that other students feel the same way.


HC: Which of your proposals would be the most difficult to accomplish? How would you plan to combat this?

TH: Some of these goals truly are five-year goals. That’s just something you can’t ignore. Sadly, Cam and I will, hopefully, not be attending this university in five years, unless we go to grad school or something. Its goals like testing accommodations centers where, frankly, Cam and I, while on campus, will never see it improved. But, in many ways, to be doing this during the bicentennial anniversary of this university is so special. It’s an opportunity to look back at the last 200 years that we’ve had and to look forward to the next 200 years and beyond. Where is this university going and how do we take those next steps? In a way, it’s kind of the perfect year for us to say, “Let’s dream really, really big. Let’s look beyond this calendar year.” That’s often hard, because you do want to do this in a tangible way, and you want to pick goals that you think can occur and where you can take that first step. But it’s so important that we do that because there are going to be a lot of future Wolverines, and frankly, many of our children will be going to the university. It’s so important that we create a Michigan that’s not only as special as it was for us, but better tomorrow.

CD: Also, I would just keep hitting on the Community aspect. Inner-city outreach is going to be pretty hard because you have to cross a lot, like grades and attendance, socioeconomic status, and all that good stuff. It’s something that we’re really dedicated to working on, and I think it’s something that takes a push to become a shove. Everything needs to start somewhere, and we really just need to lay effective groundwork. We can do great work next year, and future student governments can then do even better work.


HC: Scenario: you’re elected into these roles with unlimited funds and resources. What would be your number one priority?

TH: Definitely the expansion of the budgets of both CAPS and SAPAC. That’s just the first thing that’s got to occur. A big part of that expansion of resources for CAPS, especially, would be the improvement of the facilities that they have right now. Frankly, it’s not fair for a student to have to go to the third floor of the Union in a windowless, cramped office when they’re seeking help. Beyond that, it’s not fair that a student has to wait weeks and can’t find a consistent schedule when they are seeking those resources. Though, this is a hypothetical scenario with an unlimited budget, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some reality there and some potential for growth. Cam has worked really hard, and he’s actually going to the University of Wisconsin to check out their Student Union. The point is that this a great opportunity to say, “Hey, listen, although these resources are not infinite, there’s a lot of money going into this project for the new Union.” This is something that students really care about deeply and that they know is an issue on campus that does affect every student. As we’ve mentioned before, in my opinion the Union is the heart of the student body, and it is where students go to gather. For facilities like CAPS, which are just so vital to student wellness, not to be the best they could be at such an incredible university is frustrating. It’s something we think we can definitely work on.

CD: In addition to expanding those budgets, I think something that I would do is streamline students’ access to Central Student Government. Whether that be creating a new app that gives students direct access to Central Student Government to share their questions or ideas or just promoting our town hall initiative that we’d like to create, making sure that it’s the best it can be, so that students will feel comfortable coming in there and speaking with representatives and getting their thoughts out there. I think that’s something that students really lack right now – they feel intimidated by Student Government, and they think, “What is that? They don’t really do anything for us.” That’s something that really needs to change, and I think that’s something that we’re going to change.


HC: Do you think it’s better to dream big or to dream realistically? Why?

CD: I think it’s important to dream big. I’m a huge music guy – everything in music is about dreaming big, and that’s what I love about it. You shoot for the moon so you can land in the stars. You need to shoot for the maximum, the highest you can go, so that you can compromise for something that’s still exceptional. I think that if we can really push for a huge culture change, maybe we can only get so far, but that’s quite further than we would’ve ever gotten if we were dreaming more realistically.

TH: That’s probably the nicest thing about this balance [Cam and I] have here. I think, often, Cam is shooting for the stars and is the one coming up with big ideas first. I end up walking in as the grumpy pragmatist who kind of thinks about that first step or what is going to happen next. For me, it’s really dreaming realistically. I do love to dream big, but at the same time I always want to put an actual plan into place. For instance, [Cam] on inner-city outreach, is a perfect example – this is something we just have to do. Because of my experiences and identities, I wouldn’t think of this right away, but Cam immediately brings it up and says, “This school is not doing a good enough job of reaching out to inner-city students in high schools. They don’t feel like the University of Michigan is an attainable goal.” As a kid who’s out-of-state and less in touch with cities [in] Michigan, I wouldn’t have thought of that right away. For him to say, “Hey, these students need to know they can come here,” that’s when I feel like I’m stepping in and saying, “Alright, what’s that first step? What do we do next?” That’s how we bring out the ideas. Maybe it’s having the university partner with CSG subsidy groups that go into those areas because, often, it’s so expensive to go to Detroit, to go to Flint, to go to Ypsilanti, especially on a weekly basis. Their work is so important to reaching out to these students, talking to them, just wearing that block M. It makes students realize that the University of Michigan isn’t just something they see on Saturdays on ESPN – it’s something that’s 100 miles away, and it really is somewhere [they] can go one day. If that starts at a young age and that becomes a goal, I know that young students at Michigan are driven and can make that an attainable goal.


HC: What’s your favorite spot on campus? [besides the Union]

CD: It’s definitely NYPD.

TH: That’s a good one. I’m gonna go with The Diag, just constant energy and students walking. You see so many involved students, whether it’s handing out fliers or singing, there’s always something going on that’s just exciting.

CD: I also really like Alice Lloyd. I think that building is really modern. I really appreciate the architecture of that building, and I’ve got an architectural mindset.


HC: What’s the best course that you’ve taken at Michigan?

CD: I can say that this class I’m in right now, Sociology 435 about race and equalities, is a great class. It’s with professor Alex Murphy. It talks about the kinds of policies and ideas that have lead to inequalities in race right now. I think it’s really awesome, and it kind of shows you how society has been built. I really had no idea about the policy side of things before this class. It’s really something that I’ve seen in my everyday life.

TH: I’m gonna go with a class called, “Apologies, Reconciliation and Reparations” taught by Yazir Henry. It’s about countries, like South Africa, coming to terms with apartheid or the US coming to terms with their past with Native Americans. It’s also about finding your voice. Yazir had one of the most unique and terrifying classroom experiences I will ever come across. He’s got a certain way about him. In the end you just feel so empowered and you find your voice. It was incredible.


HC: Tell me about a challenge you’ve faced on this campus and how you handled that adversity.

TH: The summer before I came to college, my mom passed. That [had] a huge impact on my life. When I first came to school, I was really ready to be a part of something bigger than me. I was that kid who was so excited to come to Michigan – it seemed like an oasis to me. What I found was a really incredible community. Right away, I fit, and this was the place for me. But there was definitely some anxiety. It was so important for me that I find somewhere where I truly fit. I think a lot of people were worried that at such a big school, maybe I’d get lost in the crowd. It turns out, at Michigan, that’s really hard to do. There are just so many crowds.

CD: I was someone who wasn’t very involved in anything outside of sports in high school. Coming to the University of Michigan and seeing all these kids with 36s on their ACTS and 4.5 [GPAs] and president of this and that club – I was just this kid in the Summer Bridge Program and wasn’t sure how I was going to succeed. I was looking for a path, honestly. Luckily, I was really able to grow through that program. I really got myself adjusted to this campus. I haven’t looked back since stepping foot on this campus. I loved that program. I think it’s amazing. I think it does wonders for students. Without the Bridge Program, I don’t think I would be the motivated student that I am right now. I would’ve gotten lost, and I think that I probably would’ve just been down in the dumps about not doing so hot in a class, not knowing as many students as I think I should know, or not being as involved as I thought I would be.

TH: That transition to college is just so important, and it’s often so hard for students. I know that’s one thing that we’ve focused on. People who have an especially hard time often [are] international students. They don’t necessarily find that they fit in right away, and there’s some culture shock. We’ve discussed an idea where we create a program called Welcome Home, which would be a centralized mentorship program for students. Right away, they would have a contact with someone who’s trained, who knows how important this is, who’s also an international student hopefully from their own country or culture, just someone for them to talk to because, often, it’s so hard to find a place in a university that’s so big and a little overwhelming. Also, international students don’t get that same orientation that we do over the summer.

CD: And that does wonders. As I mentioned, in the Bridge Program, I was able to connect with so many older African-American students on this campus who are doing things. I think that really just did so much for me, and it showed me that I really can do something on this campus. I think that’s also part of the reason that I’m running for this position, to further promote that you can have a voice on this campus. Just because you’re a minority student doesn’t mean that you’re going to be overlooked.


HC: What are your professional aspirations post-Michigan?

TD: Baseball player.

CH: I think I want to be a ballerina. Honestly, I really want to work for Nike or Adidas or within any sports company, doing marketing for them or grassroots efforts, like working with children and outfitting them or seeing what they’re about and finding those athletes to promote your brand. Also, I’ve been really interested in creative consulting – being Kanye West’s personal assistant who runs all his fashion shows and album releases, or a campaign manager.


HC: What can you two bring to this role that no one else can?

TH: That experience and interpersonal relationship that separates us from the competition. Also, an intense love for this school and the communities we have been a part of.

CD: I honestly think it’s the energy. We’re happy to talk to students, we want to listen to you and we want you to talk to us.  We bring so much energy into everything we do, and I think that’s critical in empowering people to speak to you and getting your team and your teammates going. I was an athlete my whole life, so one thing I’ve learned is the value of teamwork and energy. If you can come into any room with passion, you spark other people, and you can really get everyone going. That’s how you really become productive, when people aren’t down in the dumps and everyone’s motivated and ready to go. I think that’s something we really bring. We attack every day with enthusiasm unknown to mankind. That’s all you need to do.


HC: Do you have anything else you would like our readers to know?

TH: All readers and all students on campus, reach out to us please. Friend me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn, whatever you want. Come talk to us. Tell me what you want me to see. Get involved. Come join us. We’re excited. This is Your Michigan.

CD: We’re really excited to be doing this, and we’re really excited to hear from the students. We want to get this done and make Michigan Your Michigan.


Don’t forget to vote in the CSG elections at vote.umich.edu starting on March 23rd!

Photo courtesy of Your Michigan.

*The opinions presented here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Her Campus staff. Her Campus U Mich will not be endorsing any party.

Rebecca Lawson is the Managing Editor (former Editor in Chief) of Her Campus at the University of Michigan. She is a senior in the University of Michigan School of Information's new Bachelor of Science in Information program, and is also pursuing Michigan's Program in Entrepreneurship certificate. After graduation, she will be working as an Associate Consultant for Microsoft in the Seattle area. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @abovethelawson! And be sure to follow our chapter's Twitter and Instagram @hercampusumich!