Tuesday, December 7, 2021

ASMSU passes bill asking for on-campus housing transparency, Community Liaison Bennett resigns

November 22, 2021
<p>College of Agricultural and Natural Resources Rep. Lauren Sawyer (left) introduced Bill-58-35 at the ASMSU meeting on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. The bill was seconded by College of Education Rep. Ella Woehlke (right).</p>

College of Agricultural and Natural Resources Rep. Lauren Sawyer (left) introduced Bill-58-35 at the ASMSU meeting on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. The bill was seconded by College of Education Rep. Ella Woehlke (right).

Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

On Nov. 18, Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, hosted their General Assembly, or GA, meeting with various speakers and the passing of Bill 58-35, which calls for MSU to be more transparent on on-campus housing availability.

During the Office of the President Reports, Community Liaison Ellie Bennett announced her resignation due to mental health and family issues. Bennett will be finishing up fall 2021 as her last semester as community liaison but hopes to continue to attend GA meetings.

“I’ve truly loved this position, and I’m really sad that I have to leave, but I think it’s what I need to do,” Bennett said. “We always talk about prioritizing our mental health, and I’m hoping that by doing this I’m setting an example and that you guys all understand that your mental health is the most important thing and you guys gotta do things for you.”

Bennett has been the third ASMSU member to resign this semester due to the main reason being mental health issues, including Vice President for Governmental Affairs Matt Apostle announcing his resignation at the previous GA meeting.

Bill 58-35

Introduced by College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Rep. Lauren Sawyer and seconded by College of Education Rep. Ella Woehlke, Bill 58-35 is a resolution to call upon the university to be more transparent on the limited availability and to provide comprehensive off-campus housing resources.

This bill was proposed in direct response to LiveOn announcing that as of now, upperclassmen are unable to live on campus as a result of a two-year live-on requirement for students causing a greater demand for on-campus housing.

Many students have no choice but to find off-campus housing, however many are out of options for living next year due to many leases and rental units having already been leased.

“The second that MSU decided to make a two-year live-on requiremen,t this became obvious from a country mile away,” College of Business Rep. Kevin Kraef said. “I think that it is grossly unfair that A) in November people are being notified of this and B) that along with transparency there also needs to be some bite from the administration, actually give some support.”

The bill initially called for an apology to be issued by the Residence Education and Housing Services, or REHS, but there were immediate concerns from Resident Hall Association, or RHA, Rep. Belle Letcher.

Letcher agreed that this is an issue but questioned if Sawyer or Woehlke had approached REHS prior to writing the bill. She voiced that the bill would not only not accomplish much but also does not make ASMSU look good without anything backing up the bill. 

“I also want to recognize that I’m speaking on this bill from a different perspective than you all have, as someone who works directly with REHS, and that made a lot of this frustrating as I’ve heard these points done before,” Letcher said. “I have been dealing with these responses which I know the answer to, but once again you all do not.”

Sawyer responded that they did not approach REHS because it was a timely issue and the bill was written over the past weekend.

Letcher soon changed her stance to support the resolution only if the GA were to pass a motion to remove the language asking for a formal apology.

Bill 58-35 was passed through voice majority after the motion was agreed to remove the request for an apology from REHS.

Jabar R. Bennett

Having joined MSU in December 2020, university vice president and chief diversity officer Dr. Jabbar R. Bennett was the first to speak with his introduction of the commitments that the university will take to advance diversity, equity and inclusion for student success.

Through MSU’s recent institutional planning process, they have announced their five core institutional values: collaboration, equity, excellence, integrity and respect.

“We will be, for employees, moving towards holding everyone accountable for demonstrating behaviors consistent with these values in our annual performance evaluation process,” Bennett said. “And that goes for the president, the provost, myself, all of my colleagues, the faculty who teach you and the staff who will support you all as well — something we’re taking very seriously.” 5:46

Bennett also briefly went through MSU’s history of its approach to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion.

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Regina Gong

Open Educational Resources, or OER, Librarian Regina Gong introduced the OER program at MSU. OERs are teaching, learning and research materials either in the public domain or have open licenses.

Having only been active for three years, the university's OER program is led by Gong along with a full publishing team.

“I really believe that OER is one of our pathways,” Gong said. “Not just through student success, but also in making sure that our materials, our educational practices are diversified and inclusive.”

The university is concentrating on using OERs to replace the traditional method of publishing textbooks, materials that have been and currently are expensive. Currently, there are only five publishers that control the college textbook publishing market, which leaves students very few options directly causing an increase in the price of textbooks.

“With OER they do not have to think about whether they have to pay rent or pay the bills and it is one more less stress in their lives as students,” Gong said.

The GA passed OER-related bills in the past including Bill 57-31 advocating for the use and expansion of OER as well as Bill 57-52 which added a Creative Commons attribution to Bill 57-31.

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