by Anthony Barash
Michigan State University’s student government recently passed a police reform measure hoping to ban the use of chemical compounds and decrease funding and called for non-citizen financial aid.
The 57th Session of the Associated Students of MSU (ASMSU) met June 18 for an emergency meeting called by ASMSU President Abii-Tah Bih, citing “turbulent times.” The assembly discussed six pieces of legislation using Zoom.
In response to George Floyd’s death, MSU’s Black Student Alliance (BSA) and Culturas De Las Razas Unidas (CRU) introduced Bill 57-06, “Advocate Michigan State University to reform the MSU Police Department.”
“MSU police and as well as East Lansing police have histories of brutality acts and bias incidents,” BSA president Sharron Reed-Davis began. Further citing the need to keep the police department accountable, Davis said “they’ve received way too much money…as their funding increases I believe that police brutality will increase.”
BSA and CRU are registered student organizations with representative seats within the ASMSU General Assembly.
Bill 57-06 faced criticism of partisanship from Business College representative Tim Morris and James Madison College representative Gavyn Webb.
In response to Morris’ criticisms that the bill “crosses the line” into partisan nature, BSA’s president said, “this bill isn’t about policy, this bill isn’t about politics, it’s just about humanity. Like either you care about the lives that are being lost or you don’t.”
The bill calls on MSU to review funding for the MSU Police Department (MSUPD), to “remove all unnecessary and excessive funding and personnel, and include salary reduction where needed,” and redirect funds to diversity efforts such as a multicultural building. Information on traffic stops by race, ethnicity, and gender is further asked. Additionally, the bill requests increased transparency into investigations of police officers.
The reform bill also calls for a ban on the “use of chemical compounds as a means of suppression or force,” it was not clarified if the bill authors intended to include firearms in the ban.
When representative Jacob Turner critiqued the bill’s vagueness in regards to “chemical compounds,” representative Chloe Majzel responded, “we just didn’t want to look up and list every single chemical compound that police officers used.” Further Majzel said, “we just want all of it gone.”
Turner and Majzel respectively represent MSU’s North American Indigenous Student Organization and MSU’s Asian Pacific American Student Organization.
The bill passed with a majority vote and two dissenters. ASMSU shifted focus to Bill 57-07, a resolution to “Call for Michigan State University to establish a scholarship fund for students who are not eligible for FAFSA due to their citizenship status.”
Vice President of CRU, Alondra Alvarez, shared her organization’s support. “We believe that everyone deserves some financial help,” cited non-citizens do not get FAFSA aid, and “so we think the least that MSU could do for these students is to come up with a fund.”
The bill did not specify how much money non-citizens would receive, and ASMSU Vice President for Finance and Operations Jordan Polk indicated that she believes students may receive up to five thousand dollars. The bill was passed with unanimous support by voice.
MSU’s student government operates on a two million dollar budget and consists of college elected representatives and representatives appointed by racial, ethnic, and social groups.
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