Swastika_Duensing

The symbol on Corbin Hall.

The Associated Students of the University of Montana passed three resolutions addressing senate discussions multiple semesters in the making at its Nov. 30 meeting, bringing its total up to nine resolutions passed this semester.

The senate first unanimously passed calling for the removal of eight swastika tiles from Corbin Hall, co-authored by UM student Josie Hess, ASUM secretary Asher Swan Adams and senator O’Shay Birdinground. 

ASUM passed a similar resolution in 2019 supporting the Diversity Advisory Council’s recommendation to remove the tiles, but the renewed bill claimed the original resolution “was intentionally not completed nor widely acknowledged” by UM administration. Some senators said the COVID-19 lockdown may have been partially to blame.

“This resolution from 2019 not being carried out shows negligence from the University and a lack of follow through from its student senators,” Hess said during public comment. “It is pertinent to reinvigorate this initiative…to hold administration and facilities accountable for the role the University’s outdated and no longer politically correct architecture plays in the identity of its campus and representation of its students.”

The authors argued although the swastika symbols on Corbin were originally used by some Southwestern Indigenous tribes, their now-hateful association with the Nazi party undermines UM’s goal of inclusivity.

Hess was inspired to bring the issue forward to ASUM once again because she sees the symbols every time she goes to work for the Montana Public Interest Research Group office in Corbin Hall. She said she became frustrated by how long it took to write her resolution and for it to see the floor after coming to ASUM with the idea last semester. 

Neither Swan Adams nor Birdinground responded to the Kaimin’s request for comment on the resolution.

However, Hess was appreciative of the senate for moving the resolution up in the agenda and considering it first after the lengthy closed session, and she’s glad ASUM is reaffirming the effort.

Senators brought up multiple ways the University can deal with the tiles on the floor, like covering them with concrete or placing a plaque explaining their Indigenous origins. The resolution passed unanimously and recommended that the tiles be placed in the Mansfield Library’s UM Archives and Special Collections.

“Personally I don’t really care how they deal with removing them, as long as they’re not there,” senator Jorgia Hawthorne said. “And personally I don’t think it’s our place to figure out how to deal with it.”

ASUM also adopted an official land acknowledgement by passing a resolution authored by former ASUM Vice President Melissa Glueckert and senator Birdinground.

“The Associated Students of the University of Montana acknowledges that we are in the aboriginal territories of the Salish and Kalispel people,” the adopted acknowledgement reads. “Today, we honor the path they have always shown us in caring for this place for generations to come.”

The senate passed it unanimously. Glueckert said she’s thankful for Birdinground and Director of Inclusive Excellence Dr. Salena Beaumont Hill’s efforts on putting the acknowledgement together. She said she is glad it passed after she was too busy to finish it while serving as a senator in the spring.

…It has been long overdue,” Glueckert said in an emailed statement. “However, it is also important to recognize the work does not stop here. This is the first step in a commitment that ASUM has made to make this campus better for our Indigenous communities. There is much work yet to be done.”

ASUM also unanimously passed a resolution authored by the executives commending ASUM Transportation Director Vickie Rectenwald. Rectenwald started as director this academic year, and has been working as ASUM’s accountant simultaneously. 

Rectenwald also does accounting for the Kaimin. Almost every senator sponsored the bill.

ASUM will meet for the final time this semester on Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. in the University Center. Alexandra Berna, ASUM’s vice president, said she could “potentially” speak about the Nov. 30 closed session, but had not decided when the Kaimin interviewed her on Dec. 2.