After a more than six-hour Michigan Student Assembly meeting last night, the new executive board is still missing a student general counsel.
The recommendations for chief of staff and treasurer – Ambreen Sayed and Vishal Bajaj, respectively – were approved by the assembly, but the recommendation for student general counsel, Michael Benson, was not.
The student general counsel serves as MSA’s parliamentarian, advising the assembly on student government legal affairs like cases in the Central Student Judiciary.
Benson, who is the former student general counsel, wrote in an e-mail that he was disappointed the assembly didn’t approve his appointment, but said he thinks the new executive board will fare well no matter who is elected student general counsel.
“I’m confident that the newly constituted executive board will (achieve) great things together, and that whoever ultimately fills the role of student general counsel will serve to (complement) the existing four executives,” Benson wrote.
President Abhishek Mahanti wrote in an e-mail that he and MSA Vice President Mike Rorro will make a new recommendation for student general counsel because Benson wasn’t approved for the position.
“Since Benson wasn’t chosen, we’re opening up applications again to all students, and we’ll be holding interviews and going forward with another nomination next week that we hope will (be) approved by the assembly,” Mahanti wrote.
Though his appointment as student general counsel was not approved, Benson was elected as the chair of the Rules and Elections Committee, which is not an executive board position.
“You don’t need a title to make a difference,” Benson said in the e-mail. “And I plan to live by that motto to ensure that the student body receives the best advocacy possible.”
Mahanti wrote in the e-mail that though Benson is a “valuable anchor of knowledge on the assembly,” he doesn’t consider the rejection of his appointment a negative.
“I’m not completely disappointed that Benson was declined,” Mahanti wrote. “It demonstrates a strength of MSA’s checks and balances and shows that the assembly is attentive of who is leading the organization.”
After the MSA president and vice president are elected by a campus-wide student vote, the elected executives make recommendations for the other executive positions. These recommendations must be approved by a majority of the assembly in a secret ballot.
After each executive recommendation is announced, if there is an objection to the person’s appointment, time is allotted for representatives to ask the candidate up to six questions.
There were objections to each recommended executive member, but the questions directed toward Benson were about specific issues representatives took with his actions in his previous term.
For example, many representatives took issue with Benson’s lack of follow through on longer-term projects like updating MSA’s website. Questions directed to the other two recommended executives touched more on their managerial styles and past experiences.
The new chief of staff, Sayed, said she hopes to guide the assembly in becoming more efficient in the future.
“I would love to have an assembly by the end of this year where every representative and every chair can honestly say that they made progress from a project that they had right from the start,” she said. “And that essentially means that the MSA as a whole is making progress, which is something that I would like to see, and something I think the whole campus needs to see.”
Bajaj, who served as the treasurer for the Indian American Student Association last year, said he thinks his experience funding a student organization will help him in his new position as MSA treasurer.
“I’ll bring an outside perspective. I think a lot of the inefficiencies in funding have been continued for the past couple of years just because that’s the way things have been done,” he said. “But I’ve become an expert at mastering the system, so I know how to cater it most effectively to student organizations.”
MSA also held elections for 26 committee and commission chairs and vice-chairs last night.