Eight student government delegates from every Big Ten school will arrive in Ann Arbor tonight to take part in the tri-annual Association of Big Ten Students conference, which will be hosted by the University for the first time since Oct. 1997.
“It”s an amazing congregation of thought, of people who are willing to put a lot of time into student government,” Michigan Student Assembly President Matt Nolan said. “The opportunity to be able to be the school to host the conference is an honor.”
Nolan said the primary benefit of the conference is that MSA can share its ideas and concerns with the other schools and learn what programs have worked at campuses across the Big Ten.
Quinn Wright, chairman of the Associated Students of Michigan State University, said he hopes the representatives “can come together as a Big Ten and pass legislation on rape awareness, as well as brainstorm ideas that we can take back to our own campus.”
Another benefit is that the MSA delegates will develop connections with the other student leaders, said LSA Rep. Zack Slates, chairman of the External Relations Committee that organized the meeting.
Nolan said when MSA was working to institute a fall break at the University last fall, he needed statistics from Penn State University, which had already implemented a similar program. He said he was able to access this information through the relationship he had developed with Penn State”s student president during ABTS.
“When you need information, it”s there,” Nolan said.
Slates said the conference this weekend will consist of four issue sessions focusing on issues including student government accountability, housing and communications between university administration and students.
Nolan added that the sessions will be informal discussions between the delegates where most of the ideas and problems experienced by the various student government will be shared.
Wright said he believes ASMSU will be able to offer some innovative ideas to the other schools on relations between students and police, an issue that has plagued Michigan State recently.
He added that his delegation hopes to leave with ideas on how to cope with student apathy on its campus.
In addition to the issue sessions, the student governments will meet on the final day of the conference as a general assembly to pass joint resolutions.
“When we speak as MSA, we speak for 38,000 students, but when we speak as ABTS, we speak for 400,000 students,” Nolan said.
During the final meeting, the student governments will also discuss changes to the ABTS constitution, which primarily provides the structure of ABTS conferences.
Wright said the constitution is defunct because its “philosophies and principles are not what ABTS stands for right now.”
Nolan said MSA is looking forward making the constitution work better for the conference, but he added that the changes will not have a significant effect on how ABTS is run.
Slates said he has worked several hours a day to organize the conference. He said he had to plan out and make arrangements for the entire agenda, including funding, dinner and hotel reservations and tickets for the Saturday night Michigan hockey game.
“The University is very much behind us in hosting this conference, and we feel that”s part of the reason it will be so beneficial,” Slates said.
Nolan said the ABTS conference “gets you re-excited about ideas because you spend an entire weekend talking about them.”