Monday, June 24, 2024

Trustee chair removes voter suppression resolution from agenda

September 9, 2022
Michigan State Trustee Vassar commenting on a research presentation. The Michigan State University Board of Trustees had its first meeting of the fall semester on Sep. 9, 2022.
Michigan State Trustee Vassar commenting on a research presentation. The Michigan State University Board of Trustees had its first meeting of the fall semester on Sep. 9, 2022.

A resolution on voter suppression was removed from the Board of Trustees Sept. 9 meeting agenda. The resolution appeared on the printed agenda at the time of the meeting but was not addressed by the academic affairs committee. 

Deputy spokesperson Dan Olsen said the board chair, Dianne Byrum, sets the agenda and items can be added or removed up to the start of the meeting. According to Byrum, the resolution, which called for the board to ask vendors to align financial contributions with candidates opposing voter suppression, was removed because it was political.

“I don’t believe that voting and access to voting should be a political issue,” Byrum said. “We pulled it because we didn't want it to become just a partisan issue, this is something that the board feels very passionate about.”

Byrum said the removal of the resolution had nothing to do with an op-ed published by The Detroit News on Sept. 8. The piece included a quote from senate majority leader Mike Shirkey who said if the resolution was passed, “This is why public universities should be defunded.”

In a press conference outside of the building after the meeting, trustee Rema Vassar said intimidation to pull funding is heinous. 

“This is a public institution devoted to Michiganders first – and then to everyone else across the world to get a world-class education,” Vassar said. “To threaten people over just a push for equity and access for minoritized folks, to threaten funding for a public institution that is doing good work is abhorrent, it’s infuriating.”

Members of the Defend Black Voters Coalition joined Vassar in speaking on voter suppression and the removal of the resolution after the conference. Defend Black Voters’ co-director Ponsella Hardaway said she expected a resolution today after board members spoke out on the issue at their June meeting

“The MSU Board of Trustees had an opportunity to take the principle stand for Michigan’s democracy but, sadly, in the face of predictable opposition, they seemed to have faltered. :eaving black, brown and working class people to fend for themselves while university dollars fund the attack on their voting rights,” Hardaway said.

Hardaway said she hopes the resolution was removed so the board can take more time to put out a meaningful resolution. Byrum said as well that she doesn’t anticipate the agenda coming up again.

Wayne County commissioner Jonathan Kinloch introduced a similar resolution to the Wayne County Board of Commissioners.

“MSU Trustees still have the opportunity to stand on the right side of history,” Kinloch said. “We want MSU trustees to be remember for their integrity, upholding the university’s core values and not as  the last speed bump on the road back to Jim Crow.”

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