About 20 students showed up yesterday for a meeting to discuss Michigan Student Assembly President Zack Yost’s creation of a Facebook.com group that mocked MSA Rep. Tim Hull and made reference to his Asperger’s syndrome, a form of mild autism.
LSA senior Aghogho Edevbie announced the meeting in an e-mail message sent to friends and campus student groups on Friday. He intended for the meeting to be a time for concerned students to discuss how they would pressure Yost to resign. Edevbie’s e-mail said that Yost needed to resign because his actions were “in direct contrast to MSA’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.”
Four MSA representatives attended the meeting yesterday, including Hull.
Edevbie began the meeting, held in the Tap Room of the Michigan Union, by outlining his plan to put pressure on MSA and Yost. He asked for volunteers to help him distribute flyers around campus today. The flyers call for Yost’s resignation and urge students to attend tomorrow’s MSA meeting.
Despite the e-mail’s blunt language, not everyone in attendance shared Edevbie’s opinion that Yost should resign immediately.
Some students in attendance said that if Yost resigns now, he would never be held accountable for what they see as the campus-wide effects of his comments. Also, they expressed fear that students may forget the effects of such insensitivity if Yost steps down from his position.
Sam Harper, president of the University’s chapter of the College Democrats, said that if Yost resigns, students could miss the chance to learn from the situation.
LSA senior Andrew Bronstein said that whether or not Yost resigns is of secondary importance to whether or not MSA makes efforts to increase “inclusiveness” of the assembly and of the campus at large.
Edevbie said changing MSA culture was a noble goal, but Yost’s resignation needs to be the first priority. Aside from the flyers, Edevbie said the student body should send letters to alumni asking them to stop donating money to the University until Yost resigns.
LSA senior Peter Borock, a former MSA representative, suggested that the University offer classes dealing with discrimination based on disabilities. This would do more to raise awareness about the issue than Yost’s resignation, he said. Borock was the communications director for the former MSA party Students 4 Michigan, of which Yost was a member.
Other students said Yost should be given the option of reviving the defunct MSA Students with Disabilities Committee and work at increasing awareness within the assembly and on campus of discrimination against students with disabilities. If he chooses not to do this, they said, he should resign.
Edevbie said he wanted the meeting to remain focused on what he saw as the primary objective – pressuring Yost to resign from MSA immediately – but several of the attending students didn’t want to discuss it. Edevbie said that attempting to increase awareness on campus about discrimination against students with disabilities is important, but it could be discussed at another meeting. This meeting, he said, should have been devoted to removing Yost.
Yost would not be the first MSA member to lose his position over the scandal. LSA junior Kenneth Baker, a former MSA representative, announced last week that he would resign his position over his membership in the Facebook group. He resigned after learning that LSA Student Government had organized a trial to recall his seat. He sent an e-mail message to LSA-SG President Keith Reisinger and MSA on Saturday to officially confirm his resignation.
When Edevbie began discussing the logistics of his campaign at yesterday’s meeting, all but six of the attendees left, including Harper, Borock, Bronstein and the four MSA representatives.
Edevbie and the remaining students discussed distributing flyers on campus and then disbanded.
After the meeting, Edevbie said he thinks some students – including Harper and Borock – came to intentionally steer the meeting off course. He said he believes they were trying to divert the group’s attention away from pressuring Yost to resign.
“We’re just looking for the resignation of Yost,” Edevbie said. He said it isn’t personal, but it’s a way to move forward from this troubling incident.