The dust has finally settled on the resignation of Zack Yost, the former president of the Michigan Student Assembly, and people are moving forward. In light of the recent forum on disability issues, students are now using Yost’s online diminution of MSA Rep. Tim Hull’s Asperger’s Syndrome as a way to make progress on inclusiveness. Nobody can defend what Yost did, but the way people eagerly called for his resignation without contemplating the role of other actors on campus raises many red flags.
In fact, taking the action to remove Yost might have jeopardized the momentum necessary to make real change on disability issues. While campus was quick to criticize one man’s online comments, it is continuing to ignore the other group members involved, as well as the University’s opposition to accommodating disabled fans at the Big House.
Overall, it reflected well upon the University that students responded negatively to this latest MSA scandal. Yost knew that the group was in poor taste, and as a public official he understood that his private conduct had everything to do with his role as MSA president. The bottom line is that Yost should not have made his crude remarks, and students responded to that poor choice. While the general consensus is that students are particularly apathetic about campus politics, they can pat themselves on the back this time.
Taking a stand is one thing, but throwing the baby out with the bathwater is another issue.
Throughout this fiasco, outraged masses pushed too eagerly for Yost’s resignation. He resigned not due to force but because he would have presided over a campus hostile toward his leadership, which was not in the best interest of students or the assembly. Hence, Yost’s decision was for the greater good of MSA, but angered students were more concerned with seeing him punished than promoting leadership capable of bringing change for students with disabilities.
Yost’s resignation only serves to end this conversation. Perhaps Yost would have been the best person to lead the dialogue because of his personal experiences. After all, he is a leader in the Program on Intergroup Relations who is familiar with campus politics and, through this public trial, has become most acutely aware of the obstacles facing students with disabilities.
On a related note, most students have forgotten that the Facebook group contained at least a few other people. Former MSA Rep. Kenny Baker revealed his own identity along with Yost’s to expose the entire scandal, but other representatives purported to be in the group remain unidentified. We already know Baker lacks any moral bearing after he exposed the private group for vague political reasons. However, if students really cared about moving forward, they would expose the other two participants. The healing process cannot be selective toward easy political targets.
While people are quick to criticize our elected leader for his transgression, we dance around the real issue on campus that truly affects thousands of disabled people: the Big House. Outspoken administrators like LSA Assistant Dean Marjorie Horton decry the infamous Facebook group as inimical to “a sense of belonging to every individual in our community.” Meanwhile, the administration still insists it does not need to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 in the renovations to the Big House.
Instead, the University is attempting to reclassify the renovations to the stadium as “repairs” to skirt ADA compliance. Despite the law, the actions of the University – more so than the words of Yost – exclude people with disabilities. We continue to misdirect our attention to what is said by University officials instead of what they are actually doing.
All of this makes the University look awful. To some, the University seemed complicit and insensitive by keeping Yost in office. Therefore, running an apologetic Yost out of office creates the fa