ASMSU focuses on student rights, engagement in spring semester

Lobbying for the Romney gym renovation, implementing a student bill of rights and increasing student services are a few of the issues ASMSU is focusing on as they begin the spring semester. ASMSU emphasizes that they exist to serve the students of MSU and holds the constituents needs as a top priority.

Arguably the most monumental goal for ASMSU this semester, and possibly even this academic year, is the drafting of a student bill of rights. Such a document would give students a list of rights regarding their interactions with members of the university, whether those be administration, faculty or other MSU entities.

Stephen Rowe, one of the five senators for the College of Letters and Science, emphasized the importance of student voice in drafting such a document. “The students will have an option to vote on it and see if the bill of rights suits them,” he said. In addition to student input, ASMSU has also consulted with the university when building the bill of rights. “We’re working closely with the dean of students, administration and the faculty senate,” Rowe said.

Shawna Pratt, an ASMSU senator at-large, pointed out the small number of colleges and universities that have installed a bill of rights. She believes the drafting and implementation of a bill of rights for students will set MSU apart from other campuses. “There’s not a ton of schools that have a bill of rights like this, so it’s really exciting that MSU is joining that forefront,” Pratt said.

Another goal that ASMSU hopes to achieve this semester is increasing voter turnout in student races. Currently, only 12 percent of students vote in student government elections, a small representation of the university as a whole. Rowe recognized this problem as a long standing one: “Voter turnout has always been some sort of a problem.” This semester ASMSU will be hiring students to walk around campus with tablets for students to vote on in hopes of raising this percentage.

Outside of these new programs, another major focus for the upcoming semester is making students more politically involved in their community. One event to raise political awareness is student rotunda day, which will allow for students to visit the capitol in Helena to see the law-making process first hand.

Students will also have the opportunity to see a mock trial of the supreme court in the SUB ballrooms on April 27, giving a glimpse into the world of law and politics that most have never been exposed to. Rowe commented on the rarity of experiencing such a trial, “Not a lot of people get to see the legal process face to face,” he said.

ASMSU hopes to spread its influence to the legislature in the upcoming year, especially with issues that will directly affect the university. ASMSU works with student lobbyist Garrett Lankford in the state legislature for advocating MSU, and hopes to use their influence to pass policies beneficial for the university. “Our lobbyist right now is pushing for the Romney renovation,” Rowe said, citing that project as one of the most important issues in the state legislature this semester for MSU.

Informing students of the programs and services already available to them continues to be a focus for ASMSU. A lack of knowledge of what services students have at their disposal is a problem on campus, the senators said, and raising awareness of what students already are able to access is always a top priority. One of these relatively unknown yet useful services is ASMSU Legal Services, a program that offers limited scope representation to students for a fee of $10 per issue.

Through the programs offered and student advocacy such as the implementation of a student bill of rights, ASMSU wants to make this spring more eventful than past ones. “As always, we’re looking to bring more events to students … historically spring semester has been a slow semester for events,” Pratt said. With high hopes for the spring, ASMSU will  focus on best representing their constituents wishes and advocating for MSU students.