In a big reversal, the Michigan Student Assembly passed a controversial resolution last night that will add restrictions to the “community concerns” portion of its weekly meetings, potentially preventing people from addressing the assembly in the future.
The resolution passed the assembly 23-7 — with two members choosing to abstain from voting — and needed a two-thirds majority to pass.
A version of the resolution was put before the assembly two weeks ago and failed to pass. Amendments were added, however, which called for the executive board to provide a written report when they decide to turn someone away, allowing the resolution to pass last night.
The amendments also specified that the board base its decisions on whether the topic the speaker would be addressing is relevant to students, campus and the community, and whether MSA could have an impact on the issue.
The assembly will now require a valid, non-expired Mcard for community members to speak during the community concerns segment — now titled “community input.” Non-affiliates will have to request permission from the executive board in order to speak.
The time for community speakers was also shortened from five minutes to three minutes per speaker and from an hour to a half an hour total.
MSA President Abhishek Mahanti voted to pass the resolution both times and said he was pleased with the discussion between members of the assembly last night.
“All the voices were heard and we had really good discussion,” he said, “which I’m really happy about.”
LSA Rep. Andrew Chinsky authored the amendments to the resolution. He said the changes made the selection process for speakers more objective than in the original version.
Chinsky said the resolution will redirect the focus of MSA’s meetings back to the students, where he said it should be.
“I am very happy that we could come together and take some of the first steps to making sure students come first in our meetings,” he said. “(The resolution) really promotes free speech and empowers students to come forward with their issues knowing that they are our primary concern and they will be the ones that will be heard above all else. That’s why we were elected.”
Opponents of the resolution said that even with the amendments, the resolution is still too restrictive of free speech.
Public Health Rep. Hamdan Yousuf voted no on the resolution twice. He said that this resolution threatens the democratic legitimacy of the assembly.
“If I were to give a caption to this meeting it would be ‘democracy reconsidered,’ ” he said.