Sunday, August 9, 2020

'The past is the past': Conflict surrounding ASMSU's nine-hour election

April 20, 2020
<p>ASMSU holds a General Assembly meeting on Feb. 27, 2020.</p>

ASMSU holds a General Assembly meeting on Feb. 27, 2020.

Photo by Jack Falinski | The State News

Prior to the nine-hour Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, presidential election, members of the general assembly were aware this election was going to be a battle between outsiders and insiders.

In the first two hours of the election, multiple members of the public made several allegations against candidates and the organization.

After the public comments, the general assembly went into closed session for three hours. Once the candidates answered questions from the GA, they went back into closed session for another three hours.

Two anonymous public comments read by the moderators addressed an image on now-president-elect Abii-Tah Bih's website reprsenting sexual assult prevention and the initiatives under her '100 Point Plan'. The image depicted someone in bed having their sheet ripped away by someone else.

Bih's website has since been updated to remove the image.

"Many survivors have been victimized by their perpetrators in their homes, students in dorms across campus and in some of their most vulnerable positions," the comment from an anonymous political science student said. "To have this seen on display for an issue that demands attention and care was irresponsible, neglectful and lacked sensitivity towards the subject."

The comment added ASMSU has done great work for survivors in the past, but can improve with survivor-centered advocacy.

Former College of Business Representative Olivia Long said in public comment that Bih, as vice chair on the Academic Committee, missed more committee meetings than she attended while introducing bills that were outside the scope of ASMSU's mission.

Prior to the election, some emails accused Bih of stealing bill ideas, which she spoke about at the presidential debate.

This bills in question include a measure to bring Halal food to MSU dining halls, and a resolution to implement mandatory diversity, equity and inclusion training.

Just hours before the election, Bih sent out emails to clarify her work drafting the bills.

Bih said the Halal bill idea came from working with former Muslim Students Association religious director Nyimasata Danjo, who she watched buy and cook her own food despite a scholarship to cover dining hall services. 

As for diversity, equity and inclusion training, Bih says the idea stemmed from the community forum held by the Black Student Alliance, or BSA, which she addresses in a clause of the bill, and is why she had BSA as seconder on the bill. 

Bih said she did not have more information on why these emails were sent out and did not say who sent them. 

“Sadly, all I know is that at least some GA reps received emails with such claims,” Bih stated in a text message. “I don’t think it will be wise to disclose the person/people who sent the emails either. It will only serve the purpose of further creating mistrust.”

Former College of Natural Science Representative Shad Soldano spoke against the current heads of the organization. 

In his public comment, he accused members of the Office of the President of “overstepping their duties” for personal benefit. He wanted to acknowledge that the GA also controls ASMSU, and not just the Office of the President. 

“I will not be going into detail of what happened in the 56th Session Office of the President because ASMSU has a brighter future now with Abii-Tah (Bih) getting elected President,” Soldano said in an email after the election. “The past is the past and I don’t want to point fingers at the people my statement inferred to.”  

At the beginning of the second election day, Vice President for Internal Administration Nora Teagan read a letter of resignation from College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Representative Max Toll. He said he chose to resign after what he witnessed during the first night of elections.

"What I witnessed in our Office of the President elections has lead me to the understanding that this assembly has become more concerned with asserting a foul sense of superiority over their fellow student leaders than they are concerned with advocating on behalf of the student body," Toll stated. "I believe my personal efforts to elevate the student voice would prove more fruitful in other capacities. To those who used their platform to hurl slander upon my former colleagues on the ASMSU staff, shame on you. How dare you talk down upon those responsible for implementing the initiatives you claim to care so strongly about."

He finished the statement saying that ASMSU must works to fill in the gaps between its departments to get things done this coming year.

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