Student government moving ahead
ASMSU setting new goals, examining initiatives after policy, finance changes
A spring and summer of struggle on parts of MSU’s undergraduate student government, ASMSU, still did not manage to gain enough student attention. Very few students know what their student government has been going through, let alone that they do have a student government.
When asked “What do you know about ASMSU?” journalism junior Danielle St. Marie offered a one-word response.
“Nothing,” she said, explaining that she had never heard of ASMSU up until The State News talked to her.
“There’s not much broadcasting about it,” said St. Marie, who happened to be sitting right across from an ASMSU Readership Program newspaper bin in Wells Hall. “There should be a bigger sign above (the newspaper bin) saying ‘ASMSU’.”
ASMSU, who has just begun its 50th session, has gone from an independent student government to a university department complying to MSU policies.
The undergraduate student government was sent a memorandum on Feb. 26 from Vice President for Finances and Treasurer Mark Haas and Vice President for Student Affairs and Services Denise Maybank saying ASMSU needed to realign with MSU’s policies.
The memorandum gave the organization a deadline to move all its funds to on-campus accounts by April 5 or risk the loss of its tax dollars. The student tax is $18 per undergraduate student per semester.
A similar scenario took place in 2011, when Maybank decided to freeze the student government’s accounts. The justification was that ASMSU had violated its own constitution when the student government held a special election. Soon afterwards, on March 31, 2011, the accounts were unfrozen after a series of meetings between MSU and ASMSU officials.
In the February memorandum, Maybank and Haas stressed the fact that the realignment still would allow ASMSU to have “continued responsibility for and autonomy on (the) tax dollars through university accounts.”
ASMSU President Evan Martinak described the transition as a way of stripping the student government of its autonomy, adding that he is concerned that the university could revoke any bill passed by ASMSU if they do not agree with it.
“We haven’t had any bill that was that pressing or that large (so far),” said Michael Mozina, ASMSU vice president for finance and operations. “We anticipate that (the university revoking a bill they don’t agree with) is a possibility … It’s still too early, we will see.”
In a previous interview, Maybank said, “The popular view is that student governments are part of the university,” explaining that the MSU administration saw it necessary for ASMSU to align to the university Manual of Business Procedures.
Martinak said that ASMSU has been the voice of students, meaning that in case that the university, for example, decides to increase tuition, ASMSU would potentially not be able to argue with MSU.
Early service changes
On Feb. 11, Deputy General Counsel Kristine Zayko sent Martinak a memorandum saying that Jeffries & Newton law firm, who had been managing ASMSU’s legal services, “can not practice law on behalf of the University or any unit of the University.”
Free legal services have been offered by ASMSU to taxpaying undergraduate students for more than 30 years, according to the student government’s website.
Martinak is concerned that the legal services the student government provides could be affected, since ASMSU now is a unit of the university. Constitutional change also is a potential change that the student government could be facing soon.
“(We are) still figuring out what those changes may entail,” said Matt Franks, ASMSU director of public relations.
In the first memorandum ASMSU received on Feb. 26, Haas and Maybank said student government documents would have to be revised as a result to aligning the practices of ASMSU with university policies.
ASMSU was given a deadline of Nov. 30, 2013 to see that these changes go through.
The ASMSU Business Office Manager position also has been going through a lot of controversy lately. Martinak was notified at the end of August that their business office manager position is being changed into a union position, meaning that Maryalice Chester, who has been working for ASMSU as an independent contractor for two years, could be risking losing her job to a higher-ranked union employee.
After Maybank assured the Council of Graduate Students, or COGS, that she is working on safeguarding the business office manager’s position, Chester said she was hopeful that she still could work for ASMSU.
“This (job) is my livelihood, the way I pay my bills,” Chester said. “I just love working for these students.”
Services to keep an eye on
ASMSU is looking to move past the summer drama with new plans to work on over the school year, continuing to provide useful services to students.
“ASMSU looks forward to continuing to work with university officials on initiatives like Safe Ride, Medical Amnesty and the sportsmanship initiative to provide beneficial services while protecting the interests of the undergraduate students of Michigan State University,” said Franks.
ASMSU also will be looking to develop a new mobile application providing students with updates on Capital Area Transportation Authority, or CATA, bus route schedules. Mozina said the project still was in its infancy, adding that the student government will keep working on developing it throughout the semester.
Other services, like free i-Clicker rentals and free bluebooks, still are being offered. No-preference sophomore Hannah Hwozdik, said the reason she knows about ASMSU is because of the free i-Clicker rental service that they provide, which she took advantage of this semester and last spring.
While the student organization has experienced many changes within the last year, Mozina believes the undergraduate student government still has one goal in mind.
“At the core, there will be no changes,” Mozina said. “We will be providing students with the services they need, giving them a voice (and remain) a vehicle to change things at the university.”