Instituting ASMSU legal services, increasing sustainability on campus and approving the purchase of a new, modern projector for the Procrastinator Theater are a few of the changes ASMSU has made this past academic year. One of the largest student constituency groups on campus and the official student voice when dealing with campus politics and administration, ASMSU and its members are dedicated to representing the wishes of students in the MSU community.
ASMSU Senate President Josh Soares discussed the benefits of the legal services offered by ASMSU. “We helped 68 students in the first ten weeks during fall semester, and it has just exponentially grown for second semester,” he said. Soares noted that students are using legal services often, even without any advertising for the service besides word of mouth. ASMSU plans to advertise the services next year to spread awareness of legal services to more students.
Legal services offer an unparalleled value for students facing any sort of legal trouble according to Soares, “[students used] 60 hours of legal services for only about $1,000 total cost.”
“It’s been probably the most successful thing helping students on a weekly basis,” he said. Last year before the hiring the Cromwell Law Firm, about 42 students were given legal aid through ASMSU compared to the approximately 120 students who were helped in 2014-15.
On a more fundamental level, ASMSU believes it has brought change to campus with the creation of a student bill of rights. The bill of rights, which has not yet been approved by MSU’s University Council, outlines the rights student have as outlined in the Student Code of Conduct and in the Faculty Handbook. Voting on the bill of rights is slated for the May 6 University Council meeting. Both Soares as well as ASMSU vice president-elect Levi Birky believe that it will soon become part of university policy. “I’ve been assured there shouldn’t be too much controversy with it, and it should fly by,” Soares said.
ASMSU’s sphere of influence extends beyond Bozeman and MSU’s campus, with a hired lobbyist on the organization’s payroll actively pushing for legislation that will benefit both MSU and its students. Some of the work MSU’s lobbyist has done to stop a bill that would have allowed for the revocation of degrees when a graduate defaults on their student loans and the approval of a $20 million renovation of Romney Hall.
Soares said that ASMSU’s lobbyist has been an important element of representation for MSU. “There was a lot of crazy legislation that he helped put a stop to and pushed forward a lot of good legislation as well,” Soares said.
Birky cited the importance of the newly remodeled Romney Hall to students. “Romney will be important to students because it would become a center for student success.” Veterans services, facilities for disabled students, as well as additional classroom space will be housed in the former gymnasium after the renovations are complete.
A new program that has seen success over the past year is the Freshman Ambassador program. Starting as a pilot program designed by ASMSU President Destini French, the program included seven freshman students in various residence halls that worked to educate their fellow students on various ways to get involved on campus. The goal of the program, according to Soares, is to bring more new students into campus organizations and ASMSU. For the 2015-16 year, the Freshman Ambassador program will double in size, with 14 ambassadors instead of this year’s seven.
Employing 170 students who work a total of 11,500 hours per semester (based on Fall 2014 statistics), ASMSU plays a large role in campus employment for students in addition the the volunteer opportunities the organization offers. These hours are logged in the various programs that ASMSU offers, from campus events such as concerts to desk clerks that work the ASMSU front office.
Birky and Soares both agreed that ASMSU has had a successful year in 2014-15. Internally, Birky said that ASMSU’s Senate and Executive branches have worked well together: “The senate and executive relationship has been very strong this year.”
Soares reflected upon the past year on a more global level, saying, “Faculty and administration on campus have been a delight to work with this year … They love to hear student input and see our ideas flourish because if a community is
saying this, its probably the best for the community.”