'You don't understand': ASMSU discusses resignation calls with Mosallam
While meeting with trustee Brian Mosallam at Thursday's general assembly meeting, the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, expressed concerns regarding the transparency and communication within the Board of Trustees.
A bill calling for the resignation of the entire Board of Trustees as well as Interim President John Engler was also introduced, but for now, is being held off until the next general assembly meeting, when representatives will have the chance to vote on it.
"I'd like to give the trustees and administration some time, basically two weeks, to prove that we shouldn't call for their resignation," Lyman Briggs College Representative Benjamin Horne, who penned the bill, said.
Throughout the meeting, Mosallam reaffirmed he cannot speak for all of the trustees and his responses and opinions are his own.
"There's really a misunderstanding of what the board actually does. The board doesn't run day to day, the board is not involved in the minutia of things," Mosallam said. "Now, I've decided to take a more active role because the narrative hasn't been that the board is this general policy maker. This board has been in the middle of a lot of these decisions."
Calling for resignations
College of the Communication Arts and Sciences Representative Maysa Sitar and Horne told Mosallam about the possibility of ASMSU calling for his and the rest of the board's resignation. Mosallam, like his response to the faculty vote of no confidence, said he would respect that decision.
"It would not affect my relationship with any of your leadership or any of your board. This is not the time for us to cut down dialogue," Mosallam said. "You have that right and don't ever think that you have to hold back on that because it's going to affect how you interface with the board. So if you feel strongly about taking that position, then you do it, you take it. And everybody will deal with it."
But before ASMSU representatives have the chance to vote on the bill, Horne said he wants to wait to see if any distinct change will happen within the university administration and policies.
"We're basically saying, 'You have two weeks to show us your dedication, or what are you here for,'" Horne said.
Last week, ASMSU made a list of suggestions that were distributed to the Board of Trustees and said they are going to work with recently-appointed Interim President John Engler. Though Horne's bill that calls for his and the entire board's resignations was already written at the time, he chose to hold off because working with Engler is "a necessary evil."
"We are willing to go as far as to call for resignations if they do not keep their promises to the MSU community to keep students, staff and faculty involved in the conversation and create meaningful visible effective change in a quick matter," Horne said.
Questions for Mosallam
ASMSU directed many unanswered question to the trustee in the beginning of the meeting.
When asked whether or not Engler's handling of a sexual assault investigation within women's prisons when he was governor, which received criticism, was discussed when the Board of Trustees chose to appoint him as MSU's interim president, Mosallam said it did not come up.
Residential College in the Arts and Humanities Representative Brittany Wise told Mosallam students are concerned with a lack of awareness within the board.
"You keep saying that you didn't know about the statistics of the amount of people who were sexually assaulted on this campus. You didn't know about former governor Engler's class action lawsuit that was brought against him. You didn't know that the firm that he hired had connections with Harvey Weinstein," Wise said. "How do you not know?"
Mosallam said there was a lot he was unaware of and he was shocked to hear of the sexual misconduct some ASMSU representatives and other women who spoke out at his town hall expressed to him. He also said he didn't always agree with Engler's past practices and policies, but voted for him for the sake of unity.
"Like I said, I think some of those decisions were made fast and hastily and that's why I'm here," Mosallam said. "That's why I apologized to the faculty. We moved fast on it, and any time you move fast on something, stuff like this comes up. This is something that we as a board will have to deal with."
When asked how the new president is going to be appointed, Mosallam said no timeline has been constructed.
But most of the representatives' questions revolved around the fact that no one in the Board of Trustees, besides Mosallam, has spoken with more students, despite students' desires for transparency and communication.
"It says a lot about you and your character and the kind of person that you are that you are here, there are seven of your colleagues and a president that you recently appointed that are not and have expressed next to no interest in doing so," College of Music Representative Isaiah Hawkins said.
Mosallam and ASMSU discussed the consequences of the entire board resigning, which would involve Gov. Rick Snyder appointing new people to those positions. Mosallam said the best ASMSU can do right now is to work with them.
Mosallam mentioned some of the actions taken so far, including newly-appointed positions within the health colleges, a new structure in student wellness programs, more hired investigators and the communication he has had with students and faculty.
He said he will take student suggestions on changes directly to Engler.
"I encourage you to take back to the Board of Trustees and to the president that it's unacceptable, it’s not really a sustainable solution to not listen to these students," Hawkins said. "Since you don't attend this university, you don't understand."