Tuesday, October 19, 2021

ASMSU questions President Stanley in GA meeting, new solar power agreement

November 27, 2020
The East Lansing Solar Park on Oct. 22, 2019.
The East Lansing Solar Park on Oct. 22, 2019. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

President Samuel L. Stanley yielded questions at the last Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, meeting on Thursday, Nov. 19. Deputy Athletic Director Alan Haller also presented.

As far as bills are concerned, MSU Swim & Dive received support on behalf of the undergraduate population, as the General Assembly, or GA, of ASMSU passed Bill 57-37. Several other bills regarding lecture materials, housing discrimination and ASMSU elections also passed. 

President Stanley

Stanley was met with a wide range of questions, from sustainability practices to healthcare, and more hot topics such as tuition, busywork and the Swim & Dive team.

Representative Blake Lajiness of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources kicked off the session by asking about the university’s future sustainability model, to which Stanley responded by talking about what the campus is currently doing and opened up about plans for a new solar energy expansion, with the intent on lowering the campus’s dependence on natural gas.

“In terms of how we’re running the campus, we’re committed to trying to move away from fossil fuels,” Stanley said. "Obviously, we made the transition from coal to natural gas but that’s still carbon generating, so I think we have work to do. We just signed an agreement for a very large, new solar array, so there will be a brand-new solar array on campus, probably one of the largest in the US and certainly the largest in the Midwest.”

A representative for the College of Social Science, Julian Trevino, continued by asking about how the university plans to increase the representation of the Latinx community within faculty and staff as the number of Latinx students has increased and is likely to continue to increase. Stanley acknowledged that the Latinx community is increasing and said that along with that community, the Black, Asian and Indigenous communities are underrepresented in faculty and staff.

“That is a major focus of our DEI efforts, is to find a way to change that. It’s incredibly important because I think students need role models, students need mentors to look up to and people who have really had a shared experience, and I think that can really make a big difference in peoples’ lives,” Stanley said.

Stanley said that the university can do a better job in hiring, but that it may take time to reach proper representation as only so many staff and faculty spots open up each year. Trevino also asked about how the university would support students whose families are being deported. Stanley said that he’s hopeful for a Biden administration that will have a more open immigration policy, and in terms of the university, offered that they would support those students in any way possible.

International Student Alliance representative Nikunj Agarwal asked about MSU sanctuary campus status. Michigan State does not have the distinction of a sanctuary campus, but Stanley said that the university is doing many things similar to one.

“We’ve been very clear that in the event of agents coming from Homeland Security on campus, that our police officers would not be working with them if they came on campus, we would not be involved in the system of enforcement,” Stanley said. “And of course, the university has been considered by DHS as being a non-enforcement zone and that hasn’t changed to my knowledge and I think it’s unlikely that under a new administration that that would change.”

James Madison College representative Jordan Kovach asked Stanley about a perceived increase in the amount of busywork that is getting assigned to students to make up for the lack of in-class instruction. In response, Stanley said that he was disappointed to hear this.

“You have to find ways to communicate this, and I think administration probably is the right place to go,” Stanley said. “We do give faculty a certain amount of leeway in how they teach, that’s something we take seriously. At the same time, we do expect some standards of education. In terms of the busywork, that’s part of the empathy, again I think it’s recognizing that this is not the time to be piling on.”

Lyman Briggs College representative Ishaan Modi asked Stanley about proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act and how the university will respond to these changes if the legislation is changed so that those adults under 25 are no longer able to stay on their parents’ insurance plan. Stanley said that this is something he hasn’t considered but thinks this component of the act is likely to remain untouched.

Representative of No Preference, Alan Saleh, voiced his constituents’ concerns over tuition, while representative of the College of Education Aaron Iturralde asked about lowering the cost of other college expenses. Stanley reminded Saleh that the main cost of providing education is the salary of faculty, so the majority of the education expense is still there. On Iturralde’s question, he said that more money needs to get in the hands of students, through another stimulus package, an increase in federal Pell grants and student employment.

Deputy Athletic Director Haller

Several questions directed toward Haller were in regard to the Spartan Swim & Dive teams that were recently cut due to the impact it would have had on the university’s budget. On the cuts, Haller said that it was a difficult decision to make, and one that has been in the work for years.

“As an administrator, discontinuing a sport, for me, is the toughest decision," Haller said. "Although the decision wasn't exclusively mine, obviously I'm an administrator so I was part of that decision, I'm not putting it off on anyone else. It was very difficult, there were a lot of people involved in the process. It wasn't a one week or one day type of decision, this was going back years, to other athletic administrations."

Haller then went on to set up a more personal meeting with Student-Athlete Advisory Council representative Emma Inch so that they could further discuss swim and dive.

Bills

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The Swim & Dive resolution, Bill 57-37, moves that ASMSU ask Athletic Director Bill Beekman and MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. to reinstate the program and to have an open discussion with the student-athletes and other interested community members on how the program can be brought back. Alumni, along with other members of the Spartan community, have voiced their desire to crowdfund the season. The bill also says that ASMSU will continue to advocate for the student-athletes’ physical and emotional wellbeing. Introducer of the bill Harsna Chahal, representative of the Lyman Briggs College, said that the athletes are going through particularly troubling times due to their circumstances.

“Athletes were not given prior knowledge, we were in the middle of a pandemic and the middle of midterm season, elections were coming up; all the athletes on the Swim & Dive team were stressed,” Chahal said. “When something that they love dearly, that they went to college for, that most of them spent the majority of their childhood growing up swimming, and most of their memories of college are from swim and dive, and then having that taken away brought so much loss to their identities.”

Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, or SAAC, representative Emma Inch, who is on the swim team, expressed frustration that the decision to cut the sports lacked discussion and planning.

“It’s a little disheartening to sit here and ask administration certain questions and you hear responses like, ‘We don’t know what this council is,’ or, ‘You need $45 million to keep your sport’,” Inch said. “Essentially we just want all of us to agree that there was little evidence and it lacked a lot of discussion beforehand.”

Bill 57-36, which advocates that teachers should post lecture materials to their class’s relevant online platforms, was passed by voice majority. The bill goes on to further state that these materials should be posted prior to the lecture. The bill defines lecture materials as “lecture notes, lecture PowerPoint presentations, and any other relevant course materials.”

Bill 57-32, which advocates for lectures to be recorded and posted to either D2L or MediaSpace, was passed in the last GA meeting. On Bill 57-36, introducer Cynthia Sridhar, College of Natural Science representative said that the circumstances created by COVID-19 warrant the measures requested in the bill.

“The premise of this bill is just to request faculty to make lecture material available to students. I think I can speak for everyone; this academic year has been crazy and students are living in unprecedented circumstances, which includes having greater responsibility such as additional jobs or taking on family members. And because most of us spend most of our time in front of screens, our mental health has taken a toll and now more than ever, technological difficulties are so much more common, which can cause students to miss portions or entireties of their lectures, which is why I believe having access to lecture material will benefit all students.”

Regarding housing discrimination, Bill 57-38 advocates that ASMSU will support any resolution by the Association of Big Ten Students, or ABTS, that advocates for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity under the protected categories at both state and federal levels. Earlier in the 57th session, ASMSU passed Bill 57-24, which advocates for these resolutions.

Bill 57-38 was passed by voice majority. Introducer Blake Lajiness, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources representative, explained that in passing Bill 57-38, the mission of Bill 57-24 would be further executed.

“This bill is taking that resolution to the ABTS Winter Conference in 2021, where they can then take the idea back to their respective institutions, and the word, the idea, the bill can be spread farther and wider, and we can make more of a change with it,” Lajiness said. “There were questions on the original resolution that asked about how we would implement this and how we would effectively advocate to the Michigan legislature or to the federal level on this issue, and this is how.”

Finally, the GA passed Bill 57-33, which amends the ASMSU election code so that if a newly elected representative leaves their seat 24 hours prior to the start of their term, the runner up in the election will replace them, given that they reached the minimum vote threshold. The bill was originally set to be introduced at the last GA meeting, but was rescinded for further consultation. Introducer Julian Trevino, College of Social Science representative, said that this would work to create a more represented student body by having a fuller GA. 

“This bill would basically let the UEC assign that runner-up person, of course, if they meet the threshold, and allow that transition to be smoother and a little more democratic as the students have already voted for that specific candidate,” Trevino said.

The next GA meeting will be Dec. 10, which will be the last meeting of 2020. A link to the Zoom can be found on the ASMSU website. 

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