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Removal of MSU employee causes backlash

By Colin Cashin, KTVM Reporter, ccashin@ktvm.com
Published On: Apr 17 2014 09:06:08 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 17 2014 11:13:10 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Earlier this semester student leaders with the Associated Students of Montana State University, ASMSU, began working on a plan to restructure the office.

Former Student Body President Lindsay Murdock and former Vice President Lukas Smith began working with MSU human resources to streamline the organization.

After being presented with several options, Murdock decided to let Office Manager Colleen Lindner go.

The decision prompted a backlash by some on campus.

Jon Green is the ASMSU Senate Vice President; he says ASMSU executives broke the rules when making the decisions to restructure their offices.

He told us, "A lot of students lost their voice."

The decision to let Office Manager Colleen Lindner go is expected to save ASMSU $45,000 annually.

Green says the issue involves money, and any decision involving finances should go through open senate hearings. He said, "This huge change took place behind closed doors. There were a lot of legality issues that went with it."

Montana State University says once the issue of letting go of an employee reaches human resources, it can't be talked about by then-ASMSU President Murdock.

Green said, "There's a huge difference between following what's legally right and following what's morally right."

We sat down with Murdock about letting Lindner go. She explained, "We are talking about people's livelihoods. And that is something we fully understand the severity of."

Murdock tells NBC Montana she worked with campus administrators for months, carefully evaluating the options before her.

Murdock said, "Sometimes as a leader we have to make tough decisions." She says it's her charge to ensure students' fees are spent effectively.

"We were paying for four staff when we only really needed three," Murdock told us. "I couldn't in good conscience continue to say that we were spending students' fees responsibly."

But the decision upset some students -- prticularly the way Murdock responded to the issue in a local newspaper, saying, "No one is irreplaceable."

MSU student Nate Newell spoke out, saying, "I just think that's kind of harsh, saying that to someone who's been working here almost 15 years."

NBC Montana asked Murdock about her comments, and she defended what she said.

Senate Vice President Jon Green has acknowledged the potential benefits of the decision to let Lindner go, but says, ultimately, it should have been handled differently.

We met up with MSU Spokesperson Tracy Ellig to talk about MSU students' ability to directly impact a state employee.

Ellig talked about ASMSU's responsibility the student body and the importance of letting its members make their own decisions.

Ellig told us, "At MSU what we want is for students to aspire to make difficult decisions. And to aspire to roles where they take on responsibilities like this."

After a nearly 4-hour long discussion at an ASMSU Senate meeting Thursday night, the student senate voted against reversing the decision to reorganize ASMSU administrators and fire Lindner.

Senators say they will look into the issues of ASMSU executive transparency again in the fall.