In light of a recent surge of community members protesting the conflict in Gaza, Michigan Student Assembly representatives are considering modifying the portion of their weekly meeting devoted to community members’ concerns.
Currently any member of the community is permitted five minutes to speak about any topic, regardless of whether or not that person is affiliated with the University.
At Tuesday’s MSA meeting, Business Rep. Jason Raymond made an announcement to the assembly urging discussion about modifying this system of “Community Concerns.”
“I don’t know where I stand on it, but I think it’s something we could really talk about,” he said. “Obviously we had some community speakers in the past that have taken advantage of our willingness to allow them to speak.”
Raymond said in recent weeks, the community speakers have been bringing up international issues that distract from assembly members’ abilities to carry out their positions properly.
“We constantly hear that MSA needs to be more relevant on campus,” he said. “And when we’re talking about issues that are so far reaching and so complex and forgetting issues that tangibly affect campus, I don’t know if we’re doing our jobs.”
Business Rep. Alex Serwer, who has been working with Raymond to promote discussion on the name change, said he is hesitant to change the policy because of the inherent connection between community members and the University.
“Michigan is the Ann Arbor community; they’re pretty much inseparable,” he said. “So, I feel like there must be issues where Ann Arbor community members would be interested in coming to the students to talk about certain issues, like street lighting.”
Raymond said that although some community members might make relevant contributions when speaking to the assembly, there have been many speakers recently who have taken advantage of the assembly’s commitment to free speech.
“In the past month and a half or so we’ve had a lot of members of the community come in and utilize our belief in free speech to talk about things that in many ways affect the University, but in more ways might not and they really might be taking advantage of MSA, even prostituting it,” he said.
LSA Rep. Andrew Chinsky said that regardless of who is given permission to speak at its meetings, the assembly can simply focus more on the tasks affiliated with the University.
“We can have a more meaningful impact on student issues than with other issues at large anyway,” he said. “We have a lot more power with anything having to do with the University.”
Chinsky added other, more useful forums exist for community members to voice their concerns.
“I think the student voice is the most important,” he said. “There are other community issues that affect us, but there are other outlets for that, like Ann Arbor City Council and the mayor, that could handle those types of issues.”
Student General Council Michael Benson said that as early as 2002, speakers were required to announce their relationship to MSA before being speaking at a meeting. Benson said he interprets this to mean that only constituents were permitted to speak during the open session at meetings.