Students from the Culturas de las Razas Unidas, or CRU, held a protest at Thursday's ASMSU meeting. The students protested the way they feel Latinx and other minority groups are being silenced by ASMSU.
On Wednesday, ASMSU published the letters they sent to each political party on Facebook. The letters were an invitation for the political candidates to come to MSU under Bill No. 52-44, passed in January. ASMSU President Lorenzo Santavicca said the letters are not endorsements of any kind.
The Facebook post was met with numerous comments and concerns, and among those were concerns from political science junior Maisie Rodriguez. Upon voicing her concerns, she was blocked from the ASMSU Facebook page, she said.
“One of their members was telling me to take my opinion elsewhere, which in Latino terms means go somewhere,” she said. “It was going nowhere, and so finally I said, ‘It’s interesting that ASMSU comes to CRU meetings and asks us how to diversify ASMSU, unpaid, no compensation, on our own time, because they’re not accommodating minorities, but they slander our e-board online.’ And right after I posted that, Jessica Gonzalez, my witness, saw that I was blocked.”
The decision to block students was an action made by a few staff members, Santavicca said in his report during the meeting. Santavicca was not aware of the situation until later, as he was in a meeting when the censorship occurred, he said.
In response to the censorship, Rodriguez and other protesters wore gold tape over their mouths and sat in on the ASMSU meeting. CRU used their Facebook page to broadcast the protest.
Students protest the Facebook blocks from ASMSU when they tried to comment on the posted letters ASMSU sent to each political party pic.twitter.com/Y8n3Sje5Jh— Madison O'Connor (@madison_o22) October 7, 2016
Prior to the protest, Rodriguez and other CRU members met with Santavicca, Rodriguez said.
“We were met with loopholes, no accountability, just very — how do I say this? No substance,” she said on behalf of CRU. “I could tell he cared, but his policies, ASMSU was not going to be held accountable, that is why we are here. We, as Latinos — Latinx, correct me — we are being silenced.”
Other students involved in the protest declined to comment.
During the general assembly meeting, ASMSU representative for the Eli Broad College of Business Michael Booth allegedly said, “We should have built a wall in the ASMSU lobby.”
He declined to comment on this statement and has since resigned from the association, ASMSU has confirmed.
After the meeting, Santavicca and other members of ASMSU addressed the protesters’ concerns. Santavicca assured protesters if there is any censorship in the future, it will end immediately.
"ASMSU is trying to be as transparent as we can," ASMSU Vice President for Internal Administration Jason Porter said. "If you take a look at last year, we did not release any of the emails or letters that we released to candidates. This year, we decided to do that because we took heat last year for not sending them out. ... As far as the Facebook censoring, it was not intentional or to make anyone feel unwelcome ... we’re trying to be as transparent as we can, and it won’t happen again.”
In response to the protest, ASMSU will meet today to talk about censorship, free speech and campus safety and security for minority groups, all issues that were raised during Thursday night’s protest, Santavicca said.
“We entrust the staff to carry out the actions of the organization as well, and that person thought that it was in the best interest that we needed to block some comments because they were attacking other people,” Santavicca said. “Now after evaluating these comments, that didn’t prove to be the case, so now we have to have a conversation about the best practices for social media for the organization.”
In addition to addressing these issues, ASMSU will discuss the level of diversity within their own organization, Santavicca said.
“It’s sad that we had to look to a protest like this to really realize that this is a critical matter," Santavicca said. "I’m ashamed that we had to have protesters to tell us this organization needs to become more diversity-inclusive, but I’m thankful they did come because I do share that with the rest of the organization.”