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ASMSU passes bills regarding RHS furloughs, pass/fail

November 9, 2020
<p>The Student Services Building at MSU on Oct. 26, 2020.</p>

The Student Services Building at MSU on Oct. 26, 2020.

Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

A series of student government actions have led to a reconsideration of the university's stance on Satisfactory/Non-Satisfactory (S/NS) grading for the fall semester, the reconsideration according to Associate Provost Mark Largent, who presented at Thursday's Associated Student's of Michigan State University (ASMSU) meeting with the General Assembly (GA). Furloughed Residential & Hospitality Services (RHS) student employees can now apply for a $50 grocery card, while ASMSU also passed a bill advocating for a change to the RHS employee contract providing a 14-day minimum notice of furlough or lay-off.

In his presentation, Largent did not initially address S/NS, but College of Education Rep. Aaron Iturralde prompted him to do so. He introduced Bill 57-28, which advocates for S/NS. The GA passed Bill 57-28 at their last meeting. That bill was brought up to the University Council of Undergraduate Education, where the bill was brought to the committee's attention.

"Together at our meeting we discussed Satisfactory/Non-Satisfactory and Pass/Fail, and it met with pretty large support by faculty and the student representatives," Iturralde said. "What are the next steps in this and seeing how administration responds to this?"

In response to Iturralde's question, Largent said that Provost Teresa Woodruff has shifted her thought process toward this decision. He acknowledged the stress of this semester — amidst a pandemic, election and ongoing racial strife.

On Monday, it was announced that MSU would be switching over to an S/NS grading option for both the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters.

The two bills regarding RHS furloughed student workers, Bills 57-30 and 57-34, were passed. Bill 57-30 creates a $33,000 fund for furloughed MSU students. Cards will be distributed following an application and review process, and international students will be given preference. Bill 57-34 resolves for ASMSU to advocate for the addition of a minimum 14-day notice prior to student furloughs or lay-offs to the RHS student employee contract. On Bill 57-30, College of Veterinary Medicine Representative Travis Boling explained the reasons he seconded this bill.

"I chose to second this bill because as ASMSU, we're here to help students and represent students," Boling said. "Since this COVID-19 pandemic happened, many students have been furloughed and just cut as employees, so I think that this is the perfect opportunity for ASMSU to directly give back to those students in a way that can actually be quantifiable."

Several other bills were also passed in the GA meeting, including one that advocates for the use and expansion of Open Educational Resources, or OER, Bill 57-31. OER can be described as free and open educational materials -- such as textbooks, lectures, tests and quizzes -- that are within the public domain or licensed for free use and repurposing. Introducer Iturralde explained why OER is important prior to deliberation.

"We can't really do a lot about tuition or room and board rates, but the one place where we can really try to financially support students is through the cost of materials that they need to use," Iturralde said. "There's a growing movement, the Open Educational Resource movement, which is trying to advocate for increased OER in teaching methods throughout universities. We've seen that very successful in local community colleges and we're seeing growing success in higher education as well."

Bill 57-32, which advocates for MSU teaching faculty to upload online lectures to D2L or Media Space, passed by voice majority. The bill argues that not all students have the same opportunities to properly attend synchronous classes due to disabilities, internet access, and additional employment due to circumstances created by COVID-19. The main controversy surrounding this bill is in regard to privacy. In his earlier presentation, Largent said that such measures may violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act in respect to the student's image. Seconder of Bill 57-32, Lee Ackerson, a College of Veterinary Medicine representative, addressed this.

"We have been granted the right that we do not have to show our faces on Zoom, so if you're uncomfortable with being involved in the recordings, you are perfectly capable and you can not be punished for shutting your Zoom camera off and still attending the lecture," Ackerson said. "Also, faculty would be uploading this to sites where only the class has access to, so it's kind of synonymous with being there in class because it's going to be the same people seeing you."

Bill 57-35, which also passed by voice majority, advocates that the university move the two one-day breaks during the spring semester to the first two weeks of April and place them close to a weekend. The reasoning behind this bill was explained by introducer James Madison College Representative Jordan Kovach.

"There were a lot of us who felt very disheartened by the way that these break days had been planned," Kovach said. "We figured we were going to get at least three mental health days, days actually off, then, all of a sudden it kind of felt like a slap in the face to schedule just two days off at the end of the semester. I'm terrified to go through a semester with three days off."

Bill 57-18, which was originally introduced to the GA on Oct. 14, creates a partnership between ASMSU and ClassRanked.com, a student-run service that provides class ratings, reviews, grade distributions and syllabi from prior classes. The bill was originally tabled due to the fact that there was a lack of accurate data on the website. Since then, site owner Hayden Hall has updated the website to reflect data more accurately. The bill passed in an 18-9 vote with six abstentions. Introducer Representative Tim Morris and seconder Representative Maria Kakos, both of the College of Business, amended the bill since it was last deliberated on. The amendments include rescinding a provision that said ASMSU would help pay for FOIA requests for ClassRanked's grade distribution data and the inclusion of termination policies if at any point ASMSU feels that the partnership is too risky.

The next GA meeting will be on Nov. 19, while representatives will meet and discuss bills in committees Thursday, Nov. 12.

Correction: This article was updated to change the college Aaron Iturralde represents to Education from Engineering

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