Sunday, October 25, 2020

Fact check: ASMSU resolution did not call for Simon's resignation

January 22, 2018
The general assembly sits during the debate about the bill to condemn MSU administration in regards to their handling of the Larry Nassar case on Jan. 18, 2018, at the MSU International Center. The bill passed with a unanimous vote.
The general assembly sits during the debate about the bill to condemn MSU administration in regards to their handling of the Larry Nassar case on Jan. 18, 2018, at the MSU International Center. The bill passed with a unanimous vote. —
Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

A bill was passed by the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, on Jan. 18 calling for MSU's administration to "take ownership" of ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar's actions during his time at MSU.

The resolution, however, does not explicitly call for any resignations or specific actions against MSU leadership.

Some ASMSU representatives, including President Lorenzo Santavicca, claim the bill can be "interpreted" as a call for Simon's resignation, but the representatives who penned the bill did not have Simon's resignation in mind.

Last week, some media outlets reported ASMSU's resolution called for President Lou Anna K. Simon to resign.

"We very purposely did not call for resignations," ASMSU representative of the Alliance for Queer and Ally Students Olivia Brenner said. "The point of the bill that was passed last night, the heart of the bill, was that we do not trust the leadership on campus anymore in a broad, general sense."

Brenner proposed the bill to the general assembly.

College of Engineering representative Ryan Aridi said it was intended by the writers of the bill for the language to be subjective, and nowhere in the bill does it explicitly state the call for any resignations. 

“I do not want Simon to resign as of now," Aridi said. "Therefore, ASMSU as a whole does not want Simon to resign. Many do want her to resign, but not all of ASMSU.”

College of Music representative Isaiah Hawkins, who seconded the bill, said the bill doesn't specifically call for resignations, but did say it broadly calls for a change in leadership.

The call for a "change in leadership," located in the final whereas clause of the bill, is where Aridi said he believes the uncertainty on what ASMSU's call for can be interpreted as, it reads:

"ASMSU believes that true healing for the MSU community on the matters of sexual assault, but specifically on the matters of Larry Nassar, will not begin unless there is a change in leadership of the institution at the highest levels."

And while Santavicca said "a change in leadership of the institution at the highest levels" can be interpreted as calling for the resignation of Simon, the organization as a whole does not agree. 

Jan. 19, after the bill was voted on, Aridi said Santavicca clarified his stance on the bill to members of the general assembly that it's his personal opinion to interpret and express it that way. Santavicca confirmed this in a video message.

Some members of the general assembly also said they believe Simon should resign, but on a more personal level and separate from the organization they represent. 

“I know there are definitely members of the general assembly that, in their individual capacities, not representing ASMSU, but in their individual capacities would support calling for President Simon’s resignation, and many have expressed so on their personal social media accounts,” Hawkins said.

Though Aridi agreed with the bill and its call to condemn the university's administration, he said he would not have supported it at the meeting if it explicitly called for any resignations.  

“That is not the unanimous decision of ASMSU. That is a partial decision of some of the GA (general assembly) members,” Aridi said. “This bill is very subjective, you can read it and there are specific parts where it’s up to you.”

Both Aridi and Brenner said ASMSU should vote to call for an external review first and wait for further litigation before deciding to discuss calling for the president to resign. 

"I think if all that comes of this is the resignation of Lou Anna K. Simon, then it wouldn't have brought justice to any of the victims or any of us in the community," Brenner said.

Santavicca noted MSU's future legal involvement with the Nassar case and why explicitly calling for any resignations might not be effective at this point. 

“As the general assembly voted to do it, they didn’t want to name a specific person or persons because we know that the civil litigation is still coming forward, but we know that in order for the university to move and heal itself, we need to change the leadership," Santavicca said.

Santavicca appeared in several reports, including the Detroit Free Press, declaring ASMSU's stance on Simon's resignation, though he claims it was his own opinion. 

"And what does that look like, I don’t know," Santavicca said. "If that means the Board saying that they need to fire the president or the president resigns, then that is what we would ultimately agree with.”

Aridi said the different interpretations of "change in leadership" and general subjectivity of the bill helped it pass with unanimous consent. He said unanimous decisions are rare at ASMSU meetings, especially when it comes to controversial topics. 

"This is what could possibly, it depends on the person, be interpreted as an actual change in leadership," Aridi said. "A resignation and a reappointment of some new person. Some of us in the GA (general assembly), including myself, have interpreted it as a change in leadership as in a change in the mindset. Which is, I would admit, a little bit of a stretch, but since we do not have solid wording here, I feel like it leaves it up for more subjective things.”

Though creators of the bill Brenner and Hawkins don't want to call for resignations, they still created the bill to condemn the university's inaction. 

"There will be a time and a place for that (Simon's resignation) in the future," Brenner said. "But that was not the intent of this bill."


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