Saturday, December 9, 2023

ASMSU discusses sustainability, tuition charges, public comment at meeting

September 26, 2023
<p>Representatives at the first ASMSU meeting of the semester at the International Center on Sept. 7, 2023.</p>

Representatives at the first ASMSU meeting of the semester at the International Center on Sept. 7, 2023.

Photo by Sonya Barlow | The State News

The Associated Students of MSU passed bills allowing public comment and requiring the university to disclose additional student fees at their meeting on Sept. 21. The four-hour meeting also included presentations from speakers regarding sustainability and discussions of over 10 bills. 

Presentation on sustainability

MSU Director of Sustainability Harvey Amoe presented the university’s plans for creating a more environmentally-friendly campus. 

Amoe said MSU hopes to reduce half of all three types of emissions by 2030. Scope one emissions are all carbon produced by campus, while scope two emissions are made up of purchases like electricity and scope three groups all indirect emissions, such as students using transportation. 

Also by 2030, they want to earn the platinum level in STARS (The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) with five key pillars: energy and water, consumption and waste, sustainable food systems, sustainable health and physical environment. By 2050, MSU hopes to be climate neutral, emitting no more carbon than the institution uses. 

Amoe wants MSU to become “the leader in sustainability." 

"(I want MSU to be) a living lab, being able to test all the ideas we’re doing in the classroom … is unique," Amoe said. "Not many campuses have the combination of urban, suburban, (and) rural all on one campus. We can take that information to be a resource for the world … about how to be more sustainable.” 

Gillian Robbins, representative for the Council of Students with Disabilities, asked how sustainability is being incorporated in the construction of the new multicultural and recreation centers. Though much of the construction was approved before Amoe became the director for sustainability, he said that MSU has design standards that focus on sustainability. 

“Is it enough? No, it’s not,” Amoe said. “I’ll be truthful — we need to do more.”

Amoe told the students to advocate for MSU to design buildings that can last for future generations and be more sustainable.

He also hopes to update historic buildings, incorporate pedestrian and bicycle-friendly design and accelerate energy efficiency with funding from the Inflation Reduction Act. 

Alexandra Pham, representative for the Asian Pacific American Student Organization, brought up one victim of construction: trees. About a year ago, MSU bulldozed trees to start construction on the new recreation center. 

Amoe said he has “seen most of the design work, and they’re very intentional in making sure we have green space.”

He added that MSU plants a tree for every tree taken away, though it remains unclear whether MSU has already planted these trees or only plans to. The campus’s arboretum keeps track of diversity among species. Amoe is also looking toward expanding the tree canopy on campus.

When asked about campus’s lawn care, Amoe said they had no concrete plan but he liked the idea of implementing pollinator habitats as opposed to grass lawns. 

“It's an interesting balance of aesthetics and walkability and ease of maintenance,” Amoe said.

Presentation on Office of the University Ombudsperson

Ryan Smith, assistant at MSU’s Office of the University Ombudsperson, presented their charter organization’s purpose.

The Office of the University Ombudsperson is a confidential, neutral ground in resolving conflict, whether a student is facing academic disputes, discrimination, or health and safety issues. Instead of advocating for the university or for students, they advocate for “fair treatment in process and outcomes.” The Office is independent from MSU, allowing them to question incidences in all levels of the institution. 

Smith said the office is an informal resource that can direct students to more formal resources. Students can contact the office through email, phoning, submitting a problem form online, or visiting room 129 in North Kenzie Hall.

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Bill 60-09

Bill 60-09 argues that MSU’s Office of Financial Aid should be required to notify students of all charges and make certain charges optional. 

Representatives Selena Salinas and George Ramirez-Madrigal wrote this bill because MSU added $170 to students’ tuition this summer. Many students were unaware of this change, Salinas said. The added charge is going to the new student recreation and wellness center being built in south neighborhood. However, the building won’t open until February 2026, after many current students will have graduated.

Salinas said upperclassmen were being charged an "unreasonable amount." Ramirez-Madrigal added that "student feedback was not present during approval process" and the Board of Trustees should be held accountable to "make decisions that are fair for all students.” 

Bill 60-09 passed unanimously.

Bill 60-11

One bill addressed public comment rules during general assemblies. With the new bill, any student, faculty or staff member can attend general assembly meetings and input their thoughts and demands. Vice President of Internal Affairs Connor Le approved this bill’s rules to ensure public comments will stay civil and respectful. 

“Public comments play a very important role in the type of legislation we pass and the type of discussions we can have,” James Madison College Representative Shaurya Pandya said. “This bill makes sure how public comments are conducted are fair, (and) that they also do not go out of hand as they have many times in the past.” 

“This bill is not to restrict anyone of public comment or freedom of speech,” Pham added. “This will help us be more (organized) and more respectful of one another.” 

Bill 60-11 passed unanimously.

Bill 60-19

Bill 20-19 would disallow campaigning door-to-door at student housing for representative seats. This bill was written to follow MSU's policy prohibiting solicitors and election door-knockers in student housing. 

Additionally, the bill's amendment states representatives must be in a major within the college they represent, ensuring representatives don't change majors in the middle of a term, Le said. However, a clause in the amendment states that if a representative receives 25 signatures, or 1% of that college's population, they can keep the position.

No Preference Representative Tushar Thakur wanted to erase the amendment requiring candidates stay with their major.

"When representatives run for elections, the candidate (and) the people who voted for them knew pretty well they were going to vote for them for a year," Thakur said. " … If they vote for someone for a year, they know what they are doing.”

He also said this might not apply for candidates who ran for ‘no preference,’ because any student who ran for no preference will eventually change their major, so the bill should have a clause about those students. 

Bill 20-19 was tabled, saving it for the next assembly. 

Bill 60-25

ASMSU voted on a bill that would allow the Student Allocations Board, or SAB, to conduct business while operating under a quorum. Le said this bill would allow the SAB to be approved once they reach a quorum so they can begin working sooner.  

“This is going to allow us to start our SAB meetings, so we can provide funding to groups and organizations without being in a quorum," Le said. 

The SAB has until Oct. 31 to recruit more people to their board.

Bill 60-25 passed unanimously.

Bill 60-26

Similar to the previous bill, this one enables new members of the SAB to begin working prior to being approved at the next general assembly, or GA, meeting. 

Vice President of Student Allocations Bhawna Vaswani said that SAB needs 12 people for quorum with 21 people as the maximum. OOTP can not state their names until approving at least 12 students, and the general assembly would then have the ability to approve each potential new member. As of Sept. 21, three students had been approved for SAB’s board, while three others were under consideration. 

Vaswani said the delay was due to a miscommunication that resulted in the application form being sent out late. Vaswani expected the SAB positions to fill up in the next few weeks. 

“If they get approved by SAB, they get automatically approved to start doing the funding,” Le said. “We need to approve those members, and if we don’t, then we can’t have SAB, and we can’t allocate money to CORES and COPS.” 

Bill 60-28 passed unanimously.

Bill 60-10

Bill 60-10 covers ASMSU’s GroupMe community guidelines.

“Last year, we realized we might need some guidelines to handle the GroupMe,” Pandya said. “This GroupMe would be regulated, so we can have civil discussions and things don’t get out of control.”

Bill 60-10 passed unanimously. 

Bill 60-12

Bill 60-12 amends Title 1 of MSU’s code of operations. OoTP updated much of their code this summer to ensure their code works as intended. This bill adds the vice presidents’ names to a list of the definition of presidents.

Bill 60-12 passed unanimously.

Bill 60-14

College representatives are allowed to send a proxy in their place when they cannot attend ASMSU general assemblies, and bill 60-14 requires representatives to identify their proxy’s name. It also requires proxies to remain for the full school year. No two representatives can send the same person as their proxy. 

After multiple attempts at writing amendments about the timeline of interviewing new members, most of which ended up being cut, bill 60-14 passed unanimously. 

Bill 60-17

Bill 60-17 ensures the vice president of student allocations nominates people in a manner consistent with the SAB personnel code. 

It also amends the SAB code of operations and the list of activities departments, which determines the extracurriculars that are eligible to receive funding from SAB. ASMSU plans to remove MSU Telecasters at the organization’s request. 

Bill 60-17 passed unanimously.

Bill 60-22

Bill 60-22 aimed to prevent romantic relationships between ASMSU members from interfering with work. Past romantic relationships between ASMSU members had negatively impacted the organization, creating a “hostile work environment” and causing a representative to resign, Le and ASMSU President Emily Hoyumpa said.

The bill would mandate ASMSU members to report romantic relationships between representatives to the Office of the President. This clause divided the general assembly. Some representatives believed bill 60-22 had good intentions but needed to be rewritten in the next committee meeting, while others, like Campus Interfaith Council Representative Vishvendra Chouhan, wanted to “kill the bill” entirely.

“Personally, I’m not really comfortable discussing these things, nor reporting it to faculty or any other person,” Chouhan said. “If we’re going to nitpick on relationships, you’re gonna go down a very deep hole, and I don’t think this is the place to start.”

After debating how to proceed with bill 60-22 for almost an hour, Chouhan motioned to vote on passing or “killing” the bill.

With five votes in favor, fourteen against, and eleven abstentions, bill 60-22 failed.

Bill 60-23

This bill puts the Vice President of Internal Affairs in charge of reporting attendance to CORES and COPS. 

Bill 60-23 passed unanimously.


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