The Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, held a meeting Thursday, June 18 to discuss and attempt to approve five bills.
ASMSU typically does not meet during the summer and uses it as a transition period for new staff. However, given the COVID-19 outbreak and the Black Lives Matter movement, they decided to hold three meetings this summer. The next two meetings are scheduled for Thursday, July 16 at 6 p.m. and Thursday, Aug. 20 at 6 p.m. All three meetings are held remotely via Zoom.
"Obviously there is so much going on around us, and that is why I called these meetings over the summer," President of ASMSU Abii-Tah Bih said. "We kind of had to dive in because we don't have that luxury to wait this summer with everything almost crumbling around us."
A large portion of the meeting was spent discussing a bill to advocate for Michigan State University to reform the MSU Police Department.
"I see police on the street and I get scared for my life, because that's just the thing that I face, that's something that I have to deal with with being a Black person in America," Black Student Alliance Chair Sharron Reed-Davis said. "We're not saying that this bill will end police brutality or anything like that, but it will potentially decrease it and this is the first step to that."
The bill passed with a majority in support after heavy discussion. ASMSU is advocating for MSU to review the MSUPD’s budget and remove all unnecessary funding and personnel with salary reduction where needed.
ASMSU is also advocating for MSUPD to to end their use of chemical compounds as a means of suppression or force and to release information on the amount of traffic stops and the racial/ethnic and gender identities of the people stopped on a yearly basis, similar to data the East Lansing Police Department released in April.
Furthermore, the bill permits MSU Residence Education and Housing Services to implement new mental health training that does not require MSUPD's involvement.
The bill also states that ASMSU will advocate for the MSUPD to be transparent about the investigations happening against their officers like Assistant Chief Valerie O’Brien and Detective JJ Bradac.
The bill did have some push back from a few members who were concerned the bill would cause MSU Police officers to lose their jobs unfairly due to budget cuts.
"While I agree with all or most of the bill, I just cannot get behind a bill that advocates for quote 'salary reductions' for police officers and staff who go out and protect us," James Madison College Rep. Gawyn Webb said. "Yes, there needs to be some common sense reforms that I think everybody in this organization can get behind, but I don't think that defunding or cutting salaries is going to be the solution or reform that we need."
Other members where also concerned that the bill was too political and that passing it would make ASMSU seem biased.
"My issue with this bill is that it seems like it is bordering partisanship," College of Business Rep. Tim Morris said. "Traditionally ASMSU has taken the stance that it is a non-partisan organization. I think if we are going to pass bills like this particular one that's one thing, but if we are going to do that then we are going to need to have a pretty straightforward discussion that's very open and honest about the nature of ASMSU and whether we are advocating for partisan policy or not and if we will continue to be non-partisan. I think this bill kind of crosses the line so I intend to vote no on this one just because of that."
Other members of ASMSU where quick to respond to this comment by Morris, saying that the bill does not pertain to a political issue but a human rights issue.
"This bill is a step in the right direction that our students want," Resident Hall Association Rep. Kaitlyn Bolton said. "I don't believe that this is in line with another party at all, and that's why we are doing it. I believe that it is the change that our students have been asking for and that it's our job and our responsibility as student leaders to listen."
All six bills listed on the agenda passed during the meeting, including Bill 57-03 to approve a director of marketing, Bill 57-04 to advocate for optional practical training work visa for international students, Bill 57-05 to advocate for MSU donor accountability, Bill 57-07 to advocate for the creation of a non-citizen fund and Bill 57-08 to advocate for theremoval of vice president of research Stephen Hsu.