EDITORIAL: An open letter to Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer

Gretchen Whitmer

Dear Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer,

Congratulations on winning the 2018 Midterm Election and being elected to serve as Michigan's 49th governor. 

We wish you luck as you prepare to take office, and we're eager to see what changes you'll make in our state over the next four years.

We endorsed you because we believe you are the best choice for Michiganders and college students in particular. Clearly, the majority of the state agrees that you are the governor we need.

Throughout your 12-year political career, you have stuck to your strong democratic values and fought for the issues you believed in. Your gubernatorial campaign was no different – you made it clear you will reform education, clean our drinking water and fix the damn roads. However, as you begin the next four years, there are a few issues we'd like you to keep in mind. 

College cost and debt

Throughout your gubernatorial campaign, you emphasized that you plan to to reform public education by providing "quality education from cradle to career." It's a well thought-out plan, but it doesn't focus very much on college education and the debt that results from it.

Your education plan details how you plan to "phase in" quality universal pre-school in Michigan, as well as tripling the number of state literacy coaches, and adding more counselors, social workers, school nurses, school security, nutritious meals and safe transportation. This is great for families with school-age children, and one day it will benefit us college students when we start having children and families of our own — but that's not what we're worried about right now.

It's not a secret that higher education is expensive. Michigan college students often graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in debt; some even drop out because they can't afford tuition. This is a problem. We should not be subjected to crippling debt simply because we want quality higher education and good paying jobs. 

You also plan to create the MI Opportunity Scholarship, a two-year, debt-free plan that will help to ensure high school graduates receive well-paying jobs, whether college is the right choice for them or not. The MI Opportunity Scholarships could potentially be used at skilled training programs, community colleges and four-year universities. 

This scholarship is a good start. During your time as governor, don't forget about the thousands of hard-working Michigan college students struggling with debt and the high cost of their education.

Sexual assault

We know that as Michigan's governor, you will defend women's rights to make decisions about their bodies. Your plan 'Getting It Done: Protecting Roe v. Wade in Michigan' details how you'll do this. We like that you want to ensure access to abortion and contraception and fix our inadequate sexual education laws. 

However, you must address the pressing issue of sexual assault.

After Ingham's County Prosecutor resigned in 2016, you took office and cracked down on sexual assault. You established a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit designed to go after abusers and asked the Michigan State Police to investigate the integrity of the county’s evidence room.

As our governor, we hope to see you immediately begin to implement programs like this on a state-wide level. Sexual assault affects thousands of Michiganders, college students in particular. 

One in every four college-aged women will be sexually assault during their time in school, and Michigan is no exception. 

We hope to see you fight campus sexual assault, and fight to ensure sexual assault survivors receive the justice they deserve.

Water quality

As the Flint Water Crisis is on its third year, we hope water quality in our fresh lakes state will begin to be a priority to you as our new governor. Just recently, PFAS or per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, has become an issue in Michigan, affecting cities across the state. Even in Mount Pleasant, PFAS was found at an old refinery location. 

We care about the water we are consuming. Water is life. We need you to make sure this isn't only addressed, but fixed. The education, employment and infrastructure in this state won't matter if our citizens are sick or unable to consume their own water. 

During your campaign, you spoke out against Line 5 and said you believe it should be shut down. Any Michigander will tell you that one of Michigan's best qualities is the Great Lakes-- as our governor, we hope you protect them. When you're in office, please make it a priority to protect our lakes and shut down Line 5.

We hope you, Gretchen Whitmer, will be able to take all of these issues you campaigned on and make the solutions a reality for the state of Michigan.

Too many college students leave the state after they graduate. Make Michigan a place we young people are eager to stay in and raise our children in. 

Make it a safe, affordable place to live. Make Michigan a place everyone can love living in.