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Associated Students of MSU advocates for online options for Berkey Hall classes, protection of Palestinian and allied students

November 20, 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 advocating for hybrid options for Berkey Hall classes and the protection of Palestinian, Arab and allied students at the general assembly meeting on Nov. 16. The assembly also discussed MSU's anti-discrimination policy and accountability. 

Public forum for presidential candidates

Secretary for Academic Governance Tyler Silvestri attended the general assembly on behalf of faculty senate leadership to share the faculty senate's goal to hold a public meeting with Kevin Guskiewicz, the sole remaining candidate for MSU's presidency. 

On Wednesday night, The State News published a story about the two finalists for MSU’s presidency, one of whom had dropped out. 

"I wanted to let you know that the faculty senate leadership reached out to contact the Board of Trustees," Silvestri said. "We essentially proposed a public forum now that the identity of the candidate has been revealed."

Since then, faculty senate leadership sent the letter to the board, who proposed the meeting to Guskiewicz, faculty senate chair Jack Lipton told The State News on Friday.

Silvestri said the faculty senate leadership will collaborate with ASMSU and the Council of Graduate Students to make the public forum happen. 

Bill 60-37

Bill 60-37 advocates for online and hybrid options for classes held in buildings affected by the Feb. 13 shooting, which include Berkey Hall and the MSU Union. 

Council for Students with Disabilities Rep. Gillian Robbins wrote and introduced bill 60-37 because Berkey Hall will reopen for classes in the spring 2024 semester. 

"Though no classes will be held only in Berkey, the complexity of scheduling means that many students will be forced back into these spaces when they are not ready," Robbins said. "For a lot of students with PTSD or lasting trauma following February, entering spaces that hold these trauma without proper support can be extremely damaging."

Robbins, a student in the College of Social Science, emphasized that the lack of hybrid or online options especially harms those studying the social sciences, as Berkey Hall is an integral part of this college.

Bill 60-37 passed unanimously. 

Bill 60-38

Bill 60-38 advocates for ASMSU and MSU to protect Palestinian, Arab and allied students' rights.

Arab Cultural Society representative Saba Saed introduced this bill after the doxxing and attempted doxxing of pro-Palestine students, she said. Saed cited an instance in which she said someone digitally altered a video to include offensive stereotypes of a pro-Palestine student who gave public comment at the Sept. 19 general assembly.

"We don’t expect everyone to be fully versed on the entire history of the Middle East, or even like the Middle East, but we do expect that you let those speaking about it do it safely," Saed said. 

Broad College of Business Rep. Kelly Thorell added that she supports bill 60-38 because, independent of political beliefs, she believes the bill advocates for free speech. 

Bill 60-38 passed unanimously. 

Bill 60-39

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Bill 60-39 extends the deadline for the Students Allocations Board, or SAB, funding.

Asian Pacific American Student Organization Rep. Alexandra Pham said the Council of Racial and Ethnic Students and the Council of Progressive Students have had a tough time receiving SAB funding.

Pham explained that the funding helps put together the groups' big events, which has been challenging to do this school year.

"It’s been difficult to get SAB up and running, so we have been dependent on our own funds," Culturas de las Razas Unidas Rep. Colette Delgado said.

Bill 60-39 passed unanimously.

Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance and Education presentation

Leaders in MSU's Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance and Education spoke at the meeting to share updates on MSU's anti-discrimination policy. 

The old anti-discrimination policy had last been updated in 2015, Interim Senior Deputy Title IX Coordinator and Director of Anti-Discrimination Policy Response & Investigations Nicole Schmidtke said.

Schmidtke explained the old policy was missing critical components like genetic information, ethnicity, military status and gender expression. Schmidtke said they worked to update definitions to make them more inclusive, which was "informed by people across campus with those lived experiences." 

"We really talked about the way identity language needs to be current," Kelly Schweda, executive director at Prevention, Outreach and Education, said. "People need to be able to identify with it. It needs to be more inclusive."

ASMSU Vice President of Academic Affairs Alissa Hakim asked how the anti-discrimination policy could protect Arab students when the university and federal government label them as white.

"How is the university going to look into (acts of discrimination) when our identities aren’t protected identities?" Hakim asked.

Schmidtke said the office offers support for any students who are impacted by discrimination, even if said support doesn’t require a formal investigation. 

Hakim also asked what the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance and Education means by "genetic information."

"How are you ensuring that genetic information and discrimination is not reflecting ideas of eugenics?" Hakim said. 

Schmidtke said that, to her knowledge, MSU has never dealt with a case involving genetic information.

However, Title IX Director Laura Rugless said that this often involves family medical testing, as workers seeking this kind of testing can worry an employer will use genealogical information against them. 

Vice President of Governmental Affairs Devin Woodruff asked how the Office for Institutional Equity — a part of the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance and Education — holds students accountable for bigoted actions.

"I know that (for) a lot of students — if they feel discrimination has happened on campus — OIE really fails at that particular point of accountability," Woodruff said. "Frankly, I think that was because the university doesn’t really have an accountability policy. I feel like a student could walk up to me and say something racist and honestly get away with it."

Schmidtke said she believes the office does enforce accountability policies.

"When we make findings that someone violated the policy, there are sanctions for the students or the employees," Schmidtke said. "Keep in mind, this is one of many policies on campus. We recognize that there are certain incidents that cause harm to folks that may not equate to discrimination or harassment under the policy, but there are other policies for accountability on campus as well."

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