Joint session calls for MU to divest from prison labor

MSA passed the resolution to condemn MU products made by state inmates, but some representatives questioned the research behind the legislation.

The April 26 joint session meeting lasted two and a half hours even though only three pieces of legislation were submitted.

Two resolutions, one to establish a joint session steering committee and another to call on MU to stop using products made through prison labor, took up the majority of the time.

While most legislation in joint session is voted on after a five-minute discussion within each government, both resolutions underwent organized discussion among the full body.

The resolution to establish a joint session steering committee prompted a debate over the leadership of joint session meetings. The steering committee would be composed of two representatives from each organization and would meet once a month leading up to Joint Session.

Some representatives didn’t believe that the steering committee, which would have 20 members, was necessary, and others were concerned that it would be redundant with scheduled monthly meetings between the joint session leaders and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs, which representatives also said has only taken place once in the past semester.

Another monthly meeting, the President’s Council, was already established in last spring’s joint session. Many representatives were uncertain how an additional meeting would assist with the organization of joint session.

Former Missouri Students Association Senate Speaker Kevin Carr proposed moving joint session meetings to a monthly schedule. Leaders from several governments disagreed on how to organize such a schedule, and eventually members from the Residence Halls Association and MSA broke out into a back-and-forth argument.

MSA President Sean Earl said that if the governments were to host monthly meetings, MSA could chair because the association understood parliamentary procedure. He also addressed what he perceived to be an attitude of blame toward Interfraternity Council, the host of the joint session. The meeting had originally been scheduled for a previous date but was delayed.

The author of the legislation clarified that the resolution was not directed at IFC, but intended to provide better organization in the future.

RHA President Matt Bourke responded that he did not think MSA should be the permanent chair of any meetings.

MSA Vice President Tori Schafer, in response to Bourke’s comments, said it was “childish” to characterize Earl’s suggestion as a “power grab.”

GPC President Hallie Thompson said that the conversation had gotten off track and said she would make a Google Doc for representatives from different governments to suggest ways to better organize joint session in the future.

The resolution was tabled.

The other major piece of legislation was introduced by MSA, who already passed the resolution in the Feb. 24 Full Senate meeting. The authors drafted the resolution after their research revealed that many products used by MU, such as furniture, are made using cheap labor of inmates at state correctional facilities.

Supporters of the legislation also said some products sold in The Mizzou Store are made using prison labor. Assistant Director of Strategic Communications Michelle Froese said in an email that that statement was untrue. According to the Missouri Vocational Enterprises website, state statutes prohibit private individuals and businesses from purchasing products made in the program.

Advocates of the legislation called for the joint session governments to pass the legislation as a way of speaking out against a system that contributed to the marginalization of youth of color.

Some opponents questioned the accuracy of the statements made in the resolution. A few representatives said the labor could help rehabilitate inmates, and one representative said inmates could enjoy the opportunity to do something “other than sit in a cell all day.”

After extensive discussion, the resolution passed with abstentions from GPC and RHA and no opposing votes.

The first resolution, which invited the Multicultural Greek Council to attend joint session, was passed unanimously by all student governments except for GPC. Their representatives arrived after the vote had been taken. The meeting started about ten minutes late because many representatives from different organizations could not find the meeting room.

The next joint session meetings will be held during the fall semester.

Edited by Waverly Colville | wcolville@themaneater.com

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