Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Student groups advocate to amend constitution, push separate ideas

March 30, 2018
ASMSU representatives listen to interim president John Engler speak during a meeting on March 29, 2018 at the Student Services Building.
ASMSU representatives listen to interim president John Engler speak during a meeting on March 29, 2018 at the Student Services Building. —
Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

Both Reclaim MSU and the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, have proposed separate amendments to the Michigan constitution in an effort to get students a seat on the Board of Trustees.

Reclaim MSU's proposed amendment advocates for the appointment of two students and two faculty members to the Board of Trustees and ASMSU's proposed amendment advocates for one. 

"It's important to look back at, sort of, what we're making these proposals for," Michael Kuhn from Reclaim MSU said. "We know it all starts with the Nassar scandal, which turned on the light to how our university works, or more specifically, doesn't work towards supporting victims of sexual assault and how the administration and the culture fails to listen to women." 

ASMSU's perspective

In the beginning of March, ASMSU passed a bill that would advocate for a constitutional amendment to Michigan’s constitution, which reserves "at least one" voting position on the Board of Trustees for any student, undergraduate or graduate not specified.

Vice President for Governmental Affairs Tyler VanHuyse, who penned the bill, said Reclaim MSU's bill moves toward the right direction. But he said having faculty members on the Board of Trustees could be a conflict of interest since they would be voting directly on their wages and salaries. 

A few representatives said ASMSU should stick to advocating for student positions. 

"In the initial bill that we passed, we decided specifically not to advocate for adding faculty and staff voices because we didn't want to put words in their mouth," Lyman Briggs representative Benjamin Horne said. "So, I think, the sentiment is that we agree with this (Reclaim MSU's proposal), we just don't want to be speaking for other people when they have systems of representations to speak for themselves."

VanHuyse also said asking for more than one position may not be politically feasible.

"We don't want to hinder our ability to at least get one student on," VanHuyse said. "Getting a student on there shows a lot of power and opportunities for students to change the culture on campus and I don't want us to lose that by not having a politically feasible objective." 

VanHuyse also said no matter how many possible students and faculty on the Board of Trustees, one student voice is enough. 

"Not only would a student have an equal vote and could be the swaying opinion on things, but the student can also stand against unity and say, 'I don't support this as a student' and it would still be significant," VanHuyse said. 

Reclaim MSU's perspective

Reclaim MSU's proposal has two parts. The immediate part is amending the Board of Trustees bylaws and the second part is the eventual amending of the Michigan constitution to include four extra positions. Kuhn said this second part of the proposal would be more suitable than ASMSU's.

"What we have determined is that we need a new system, a system that empowers the most vulnerable in our community and we need to understand why this change is important," Kuhn said.

The four positions would include one undergraduate student, one graduate student and two faculty members. 

"This represents the whole vision of our community and different interests," Michael said. "We think that the community should be represented in this way with a larger group of people." 

Kuhn said this particular structure is implemented in other universities around the country, such as Penn State, and include multiple students and faculty members. 

"Essentially, it's very similar to what you (ASMSU) are working for, it's just slightly more inclusive to student's needs and to faculty needs as well," Natalie Rogers from Reclaim MSU said.

Going forward

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College of Music Representative Isaiah Hawkins said ASMSU must keep in mind the activism within the MSU community coming from groups like Reclaim MSU.

"(Santavicca) has said many times that ASMSU is not an activist organization, and that's very true because we have a role in the governance, so that's where our focus is," Hawkins said. "There are many of our constituents that are making these proposals and many of the times, we may not notice it, but our ideas and directives line up."

VanHuyse said ASMSU has met with Michigan representatives and will continue to advocate for this proposed amendment to the constitution in the future. 

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