Friday, November 27, 2020

ASMSU remove Safe Ride tax, passes 7 bills in 5-hour meeting

October 29, 2020
The Student Services Building at MSU on October 26, 2020.
The Student Services Building at MSU on October 26, 2020. —
Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

The 57th General Assembly of the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, hosted their longest meeting of the session Oct. 22. In the five-hour meeting, the assembly passed seven bills.

The bills removed the $3 Safe Ride student tax for the spring semester, addressed anti-discrimination, Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, Satisfactory/Non-Satisfactory grading, and Student Faculty Staff Hearing Board, or SFSB, cases.

Provost Teresa Woodruff also visited to answer questions from the General Assembly, or GA.

Safe Ride Tax

Bill 57-23 passed unanimously, suspending the Safe Ride tax for the spring semester. This means that the ASMSU tax will go down from $21 to $18.

Although the tax will be suspended, the service may still be available this spring, dependent on whether or not it can be carried out in a safe manner. Spring semester bills will be made available on StuInfo on Saturday, Nov. 14. Seconder of the bill, Agricultural and Natural Resources Representative Blake Lajiness, said that the bill will offer relief for students.

“I think it’s important that we recognize that we give back to the students as much as possible in these uncertain times and give them a little bit of certainty with the tax being lower,” Lajiness said.

Anti-Discrimination

Bill 57-24, a resolution to advocate that sexual orientation and gender identity be included as protected categories against housing discrimination at both the federal and state level, passed by voice majority.

At the local level, East Lansing and Meridian Township already protect these categories, but as introducer Lajiness said, MSU students are now spread throughout Michigan and the rest of the country.

The bill resolves that ASMSU advocates for the Michigan legislature to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976 and for the U.S. Congress to adopt the Fair and Equal Housing Act to include the categories as protected against housing discrimination at the state and federal levels, respectively.

“This is a matter of human rights and is a pressing issue, it’s very prevalent in the news right now,” Lajiness said. “It’s key that we take action, being the student body of MSU, to help our constituents in any way possible during this pandemic and into the future to have access to housing, no matter how they identify.”

Also addressing discrimination, Bill 57-27 was passed by voice majority to advocate for several changes to MSU’s Anti-Discrimination Policy, or ADP. One of the major changes would be the addition of the following protected classes: language, gender expression, perceived gender, parental status, pregnancy, citizenship status and HIV/AIDS status.

Additionally, it advocates for the addition of a section that explicitly prohibits virtual discrimination. The bill also advocates for the inclusion of sections that detail the process of complaints, investigations and sanctions taken by the Office of Institutional Equity and the possible outcomes of such investigations. Introducer James Madison Representative Jordan Kovach also said that our ADP is lacking compared to other Big Ten schools.

“These are just straight out of other ADPs, this is to bring ours to the equivalent of others,” Kovach said. “As of now, there’s going to be a committee that’s going to be reviewing the ADP as is, it hasn’t been reviewed in five years, so, it’s definitely mandatory that it be reviewed immediately.”

Bill 57-29 moved to voice support for the decision made in Obergefell v. Hodges, which says that same-sex couples have the right to marry, after two Supreme Court justices issued an opinion stating that the decision upholds a “novel constitutional right over the religious liberty interests explicitly protected in the First Amendment” and that “the Court has created a problem that only it can fix.”

The bill passed by voice majority. Seconder Veterinary Medicine Representative Travis Boling said that this bill aligns with ASMSU's preamble, which states that they won't discriminate against a person based on sexual orientation. He commented on the importance of the bill.

"I am appalled that I have to second this resolution, but here we are," Boling said. "This is important because I should not have to fight for the same rights as another person. Even in 2020, I can say that I don't have the same rights as a heterosexual person."

ASMSU released a statement on Tuesday, Oct. 27 as a result of the bill's passage. 

Applied Behavior Analysis

Bill 57-26, for ASMSU to condemn the practice of Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, was passed by voice majority and with four abstentions. This bill is contentious due to the fact that ABA is a controversial therapy; the Autistic Self Advocacy Network has condemned the practice. ABA is the most common form of treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Bill introducer Kovach touched on why ABA is controversial.

“ABA is focused on the behaviorist thought of psychology, which is pretty much the exact same way that we train dogs," Kovach said. "With rewarding behaviors we see fit, that we see aligned with societal norms."

The bill did not go without resistance. Natural Science Representative Aubrey Hanes noted that she works with Autistic people and argued in favor of ABA, saying that there exists a wide range of functionality within Autistic people and that people with more severe Autism need some type of therapy. She said that there's also a matter of finance.

"In the medical field, a lot of things have to be recognized on a large basis in order for insurance companies or Medicare to pay for it or fund it and can be very expensive without that," Hanes said. "Now that ABA therapy is highly recognized, Medicare can pay for that in some cases."

After Hanes expressed sentiment for reformation of ABA rather than condemnation, Council of Students with Disabilities Representative Faith Foster argued that it's not up to neurotypical people to dictate what's best for neurodivergent people. Then a member of the public, who wished to remain anonymous, was given the opportunity to speak on their experience.

"I have ASD, I'm probably a big reason why this bill got introduced in the first place because of everyone I know who has ASD who goes here, and everyone I know in other schools and throughout the community, and most of us share the sentiments that this is a terrible, terrible therapy," the anonymous speaker said. "This is just the start of what I hope happens at MSU, but I believe this is the start of something big, something important."

ASMSU also passed a resolution, Bill 57-28 to support a Satisfactory/Non-Satisfactory, or S/NS, option for the fall semester.

The bill references a petition titled, MSU FALL 2020 SEMESTER BE PASS/FAIL, which currently has 3,999 signatures. It also points to other universities that have enacted a form of S/NS, including Ohio State University, which is also in the Big Ten Academic Alliance.

The bill also argues that students weren’t given enough time to consider the new policy or meet with advisors, especially since it was announced after the deadline to drop classes without a grade reported. In passing this bill, introducer Education Representative Aaron Iturralde said that this bill amplifies the student body voice.

“We are still the voice of the student body, of the Spartan community,” Iturralde said. “Whatever they feel is beneficial to them, we need to echo that to administration.”

Bill 57-25, which passed in a unanimous vote, moves to endorse two temporary amendments to the Student Handbook due to the Dean of Students Office seeing an overwhelming increase in student disciplinary referrals. For students who deny these allegations, the case must be heard by the SFSB.

The board only has 13 members and requires five present student members to establish a quorum. The bill proposes that all ASMSU appointees should have the ability to serve on the SFSB and allow all previously appointed and trained members to serve as alternates. The amendments would expire at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year. Introducer of the bill, ASMSU Vice President for Academic Affairs Brianna Aiello, explained the bill further.

“Currently the Dean of Students Office oversees the different hearing boards and what's happening is they don't have enough students to meet quorum on these boards, and they can't get more students because the semester beforehand, these students were supposed to be trained," Aiello said.

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