While the ASMSU organizational changes were student led under Student Body President Lindsay Murdock, Vice President Lukas Smith and Business Manager Erica Dunn, the ASMSU Senate was not consulted before the changes were implemented at the April 10 senate meeting. This led to the attempted impeachment of the executive team, and ongoing frustration by both the senate and ASMSU program directors.
At the meeting, current director of Streamline Latenight Kasey Welles expressed concern to the senate that the change will complicate the ongoing transition for next year’s program directors, and that it eliminated the consistency of having the same office manager, Colleen Lindner.
This restructure, he said, “got rid of the person [he goes] to for everything.” The new program directors will not have the ability to utilize that same resource.
Also speaking at the meeting were productions director Alex Nusbaum and former campus entertainment director Eric Kofer, who said he believed that the executive team was using the changes as an excuse to “personally attack” classified staff. “Please stop screwing over this organization and the students,” he directed at Murdock.
Former ASMSU Attorney Phyllis Bock, who will now serve as ASMSU operations manager, said she wore black to the meeting because she was “in mourning” for the organization.
Though Murdock, Smith and Dunn claimed the changes were student-driven and pushed forward entirely by them, Bock saw this conversation start last summer with talk of an MOU between the Division of Student Success and ASMSU, stating that ASMSU classified staff report to the Vice President for Student Success.
Bock also criticized the abolishment of the ASMSU attorney position. She said she is recognized as the leading renter’s rights expert in Bozeman, and most attorneys represent landlords, not students.
“ASMSU was unique,” she said. “I think that my autonomy was your autonomy. And you’ve given it away.”
A portion of the senate claimed that the changes violated the ASMSU Constitution, because the new structure changes how student fees will be spent and disregards the current budget being built and approved by the senate. They argued that the ASMSU Constitution dictates that the senate has final budgetary authority over student fees.
In response to the issue, Senate Vice President Jon Green drafted a resolution for the impeachment of Murdock and Smith. Green called the impeachment resolution a “symbolic measure” to show the ASMSU and MSU administrations that violating the constitution has repercussions.
However, because senate protocol dictates that the impeachment process take three weeks (including a first reading, trial and vote), the current executive team would be out of office before the senate could take a final vote. After discussion, the resolution and impeachment effort failed.
Aside from constitutionality, the senate was concerned about the transparency of the restructure. Green said that moving forward without senate or student input was not transparent. Senator Steve Rowe agreed, saying, “The decision was made behind closed doors.”
Interim Vice President for Student Success Robert Marley said that both Bock and Lindner were previously given the opportunity to provide feedback on potential changes to ASMSU organizational structure, but declined to do so. The senate and senate leadership was not consulted, Marley said, because although that would have been ideal, the issue was hypersensitive. The executive team wanted to be able to move forward without making it a “long, drawn-out process.”
Murdock also articulated that the senate is not responsible for classified staff and personnel restructures and, therefore, could not be consulted for confidentiality reasons.
Marley noted that although this isn’t a good time for student programs to transition without the institutional knowledge of Lindner, the changes allow for the new executive team and senate sworn in on April 17 to start fresh.
Senate President Eric Oak said that at the April 17 meeting he will be pushing forward a resolution aimed at nullifying structure changes. He said he believes that the changes violate and break the ASMSU Constitution, Board of Regents policy and the Montana Constitution by disregarding the Senate’s authority to allocate student fees.
However, MSU Legal Counsel Leslie Taylor said she is, “aware of no Regent’s policy or state law that would apply to a reorganization of a university program or unit.”
“To my knowledge all personnel policies have been followed,” she continued.
“I understand the gut reaction [of the senate]” Marley said, saying laying off employees is something that is never easy to do. However, he said he believes that the structural changes still meet the intent of the senate’s budget. He noted that he wants students to be assured “the staff working on behalf of the leadership team is now much more efficient.”
Oak said that while he thought the changes were made with the best intentions, ASMSU has been “weakened” by them. “I believe this hinder’s ASMSU’s ability to give [students] the best possible programs,” he said.