After months of panic and negotiation, ASMSU, MSU’s undergraduate student government, has come to its final resolution — a decision to move all funds on campus, per the long-awaited request of MSU.
When representatives gathered for an emergency General Assembly meeting Wednesday night, they all knew what they had to do. After a long-winded, escalating battle with the university, it was time to put it to rest.
“I think it’s very clear the way that the university wants us to progress, and the way that we should progress,” said ASMSU Vice President for Student Funding Mike Mozina, addressing other members. “I hope it’s clear to everybody that the writing is on the wall.”
On April 23, ASMSU President Evan Martinak received a memorandum from Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Mark Haas and Senior Vice President of Student Affairs Denise Maybank, giving the student government a final deadline of July 1 to put all of its money in on-campus accounts or risk going forward without its collected student tax money permanently. With no other option in sight, representatives voted 12-2 to make the move.
The battle was over.
“When you’re handed an ultimatum, the room for negotiation is over,” Mozina said. “We had to evaluate what the action would be in the best interest of the student government, knowing that the negotiation wasn’t going to be there.”
He said, she said
ASMSU’s battle with university officials began as a financial question.
Starting in 2010, Maner Costerisan Certified Public Accountants performed two audits — one for the 2009-10 fiscal year and another for 2010-11 — both of which uncovered issues with how the student government kept track of its funds.
ASMSU and university officials attempted to negotiate with one another until this year, when ASMSU was asked to place all funds on campus by April 5. When the deadline passed, Haas sent the memorandum stating the organization’s summer $18 per student per semester tax would be withheld.
In the MSU Board of Trustees meeting on June 21, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said there were no signs of trouble before the audits. After performing similar audits for the Council of Graduate Students, or COGS, Simon said she and the trustees carry the same consideration for both organizations.
“In the history (of ASMSU) … this is the first extended period of time in which those audits have had these issues,” Simon said. “We were open to talk with (ASMSU) about it, as we are with COGS.”
But ASMSU representative Mitch Treadwell said this has not been the case. With members fearing the loss of ASMSU’s autonomy, he said it only caused a meaningless exchange between both parties.
“We have carried on this struggle, this belligerent charade, for far too long,” Treadwell said. “This charade to protect our autonomy has become devoid of meaning. We have to show that we want to represent the students, and yes, we want a measure of freedom from the university.”
After reaching out to Martinak in April, Trustee Brian Mosallam said he never got the chance to meet and negotiate with him, despite contacting him on several occasions.
“I’m disappointed with the way Evan has handled things and responded to my offer, and I fully support the administration with what they decide to do,” Mosallam said. “If something’s going to get resolved, people need to sit down in a room and hash out their differences and come up with a reasonable compromise.”
Into the future
From the get-go, Haas has said he does not want to make ASMSU into a university department. In order to set an example for students, Haas said ASMSU must keep its own strength intact.
“It’s important that we have a strong student government at MSU,” Haas said. “These are the people that will be leaders of industry and business and government in the future. By having a strong government, we have a training ground for people to learn the skills and have the experience.”
Rather than keeping up the fight for off-campus funds, Martinak said ASMSU representatives made the best choice to keep the organization alive.
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“The simple fact here is yes, we have been given an ultimatum,” he said in Wednesday’s meeting. “We’ll pick up the pieces later and decide the best course of action later after the fact.”
Following Martinak’s meeting with Maybank and Haas on Friday, ASMSU has received its tax money for the summer semester.
But despite the promises, Mozina said only time will tell how the relationship with the university fares going forward.
“We don’t know where the chips will fall, but we can sure as heck speculate,” he said. “If this is solely about the privacy and security of funds, then there (are) some bonuses in that. But whether or not that security will then turn into control … that’s where we see problems arise.”
Instead of focusing solely on themselves and the organization, Mozina said ASMSU will build from the ground up, starting with the students.
“You’ll see ASMSU a lot more prevalent around campus in a lot of issues that we haven’t been before,” he said. “If you start with what the students want and what the students need, you’ll find a way to make the organization better and stronger than it
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