Wednesday, July 28, 2021

ASMSU brings new student body president, new initiatives to 2018-19 year

August 28, 2018
James Madison Junior Katherine "Cookie" Rifiotis writes "Spartans will look out for each other" on a poster during the Teach-in/Learn-in: Building a Just MSU on Feb. 27, 2018 at MSU Union. (Annie Barker | The State News)
James Madison Junior Katherine "Cookie" Rifiotis writes "Spartans will look out for each other" on a poster during the Teach-in/Learn-in: Building a Just MSU on Feb. 27, 2018 at MSU Union. (Annie Barker | The State News) —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

The Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, is the undergraduate student government of MSU, which offers various resources to students with the goal to “enhance our individual and collective student experience through education, empowerment, and advocacy by dedication to the needs and interests of students.”

ASMSU offers services such as free blue books, iClicker rentals, free Red Cedar Log Yearbooks, test prep courses, interest free loans and free daily newspapers from the New York Times, USA Today and the Detroit Free Press, according to their website. 

In the 2018-19 school year, ASMSU will be experiencing some changes in leadership and plans on initiating various student and administrative-related goals. 

Change in leadership

In the spring, ASMSU unanimously voted in Katherine Rifiotis, political theory and constitutional democracy senior, as the new president of ASMSU. 

Rifiotis, who also goes by the nickname “Cookie,” is replacing Lorenzo Santavicca, who was ASMSU’s president for two years. 

She ran unopposed in April and won with a vote of 32 to zero.

According to the ASMSU website, the Office of the President will also include:

  • Jack Person, senior computer science and information technology major, as chief of staff
  • Dylan Westrin, senior political theory and constitutional democracy major, as vice president for academic affairs
  • Dan Iancio, senior finance major, as vice president for finance and operations
  • Eli Pales, junior political science and journalism major, as vice president for governmental affairs
  • Mario Kakos, junior political science major, as vice president for internal administration
  • Mackenzie Bosworth, senior business management major, as vice president for student allocations

Rifiotis said training and exposure to different departments and leaders will be something that the new general assembly and leaders of ASMSU.

General Assembly of the 55th session of ASMSU

In addition to a change in leadership, the general assembly of ASMSU will also be undergoing some changes.

The general assembly is the "legislative body" of ASMSU. It consists of elected representatives from all of the colleges, the Council of Racial and Ethnic Students, the Council of Progressive Students and other governing organizations, according to the ASMSU website.

The assembly debates and votes on legislative action and has meetings that are open to the public, according to the general assembly description. 

Rifiotis said there are currently 19 general assembly positions open and there were five to six seats that are currently vacant because those who ran for those seats did not get at least 25 votes.

"People ran for those seats, but they couldn't reach that threshold," Rifiotis said. 

She said ASMSU will now have to go through an appointment process in the first few weeks of the fall semester in order to get "a full general assembly as quick as possible." 

Involvement in the university presidential search

In light of the announcement that a permanent MSU president will be chosen by June 2019, members of MSU's Board of Trustees - Dianne Byrum and Melanie Foster - have both said that student groups, such as ASMSU, will be involved in the presidential search.

According to the presidential search timeline, which was introduced by Byrum and Foster in late June, listening sessions with the MSU community and stakeholders will continue until October. At a press conference announcing the timeline for the presidential search, Byrum said the listening sessions will serve as a chance for MSU faculty, staff and other members of the MSU community to be involved in the search for a new university president. 

She also said that she and Foster have been in contact with student leadership organizations on campus, including ASMSU. 

"We will be in contact with the student leadership organizations; ASMSU and the other organizations," she said. "And we have been right along, so we regularly have conversations with the student leadership."

When Rifiotis was elected, she said that some of her goals as president of ASMSU was to be a part of the university’s academic governance system and having a voice in the search for a new president and advocating for a student voice among the MSU Board of Trustees.

Rifiotis said, going into the upcoming school year, ASMSU will be focusing on the listening tours that Byrum and Foster have listed out in the presidential search timeline.

"The Board of Trustees wants to go through listening tours to get a sense of what are the values that Michigan State holds, what are our strengths, what are our weaknesses and then what can we do--what can we gather--from those listening tours and translate it into a person that has those qualities," Rifiotis said. 

Rifiotis said she believes holding listening sessions is a "great way to approach" the search for a new university president. 

"I'm really happy that both Trustee Byrum and Trustee Foster have been really pushing to have those listening tours," Rifiotis said. "I don't know, personally, how much convincing that took on the side of the board, but I saw them, like, really kind of making strides to say, like, we need to stop pretty much everything and do these listening tours."

Rifiotis said she has provided Byrum and Foster with a list of various student groups among graduate students, undergraduate students, the Residence Halls Association, or RHA, student athletes and ASMSU itself. She said she believes different demographics of students should be involved in the presidential search and "it's not enough to say, 'I'll have a listening session for students'" on a particular day because students have classes and other activities.

Rifiotis said she also made a recommendation to release "a whole calendar (of the listening sessions) so people know that it's not their only, kind of, chance or their only opportunity" to have a voice in the presidential search.

She said Byrum and Foster will be making schedules for listening sessions soon and she believes the ways in which the listening sessions will be monitored and initiated are still being planned for when students return to campus.

Resolution to have WiFi installed in all residence hall rooms on campus

In the fall 2017 semester, ASMSU supported the implementation of Wi-Fi access in all residence hall rooms at MSU before the 2018-19 academic year.

The resolution argued that individual Wi-Fi access systems are expensive on top of other school expenses and that students should be able to study on campus with the expectation of wireless connection.

Since ASMSU supported the implementation, Shaw and Emmons halls had Wi-Fi installed during the spring break of 2018 and, according to the Technology at MSU website, Wi-Fi has been installed in all of the remaining residence halls over the summer.    

"MSU provides Wi-Fi in common areas and classroom spaces in all residence halls," the website said. "All residence hall rooms will have Wi-Fi by the beginning of Fall Semester 2018."

Rifiotis said she thinks ASMSU was able to be a "force for change" by initiating wireless connection throughout campus.

"I'm really glad that that's done," Rifiotis said.  

Different initiatives Rifiotis plans on bringing to the upcoming school year

Rifiotis said ASMSU plans on doing several "outward facing initiatives," including

  • Voter registration and increasing voter turnout among students on campus
  • Flyers in dorms listing ASMSU services and opportunities
  • Diversity and inclusion booklets to hi-light diversity and different narratives on campus
  • Being role models for incoming students, including having Rifiotis as the first student speaker in years at the freshman convocation
  • Pushing for a freshman seminar course 
  • Pushing for improving the Academic Orientation Program, or AOP to better connect with students' first week of school
  • Having "know your rights nights," where students can learn about their rights on campus
  • Extending Mental Health Awareness Week and other outreach campaigns 


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