A tentative merger where all student governments in the University of Wisconsin System would join the United Council could revitalize the council and create a unified student voice at the state level, representatives say.
Last weekend, student representatives met in Oshkosh and discussed possible future collaboration with United Council, a statewide student organization that represents more than 100,000 students in the UW System and acts as a lobbying group to ensure quality education at an affordable price. Associated Students of Madison Chair Tyler Junger and Vice Chair Tom Templeton represented UW at the conference.
In a letter that came as a product of the meeting, the student representatives asked the Board of Regents for a permanent merger between the universities and United Council.
The letter said there is no tentative date for the merger, but a timeline will be discussed when the representatives meet in May.
The representatives did, however, ask the Regents to take action before the next academic year because of the high turnover rate of student leadership positions.
United Council used to represent all students in the UW System on the state level until legislation passed in the 1980s made it unnecessary for universities to have membership in United Council.
Junger said the legislation has had a domino effect on United Council membership.
When one university dropped membership with United Council, they did not receive as much funding because they could not claim they represented all students, Junger said.
Templeton said the goal of the merger would be to have as many universities involved in United Council as there were before the legislation in the 1980s.
UW-Milwaukee dropped membership September 2009, and Jay Burseth, president of UW-Milwaukee’s student government, said he is not sure why his government made this decision.
“My big push for it is that we need a powerful lobbying group on behalf of all students. If we don’t have anyone in the Capitol representing students, we don’t have people at the Capitol making students a top priority,” Burseth said.
United Council was unanimously in support of merging.
Executive Director of United Council Nicole June said having a strong student voice on the state level has received solid support, with 96 percent of the UW System supporting the push for the merger.
In tough economic times, June said it is important for students to have a voice at the Capitol and in legislation.
During the student representatives meeting, those representing the universities had a chance to sign a letter stating they were open to the idea of a merger with the United Council. UW-Madison representatives signed the letter.
UW-Whitewater representatives did not sign the letter until Monday, when Templeton and Regent Aaron Wingad drove to UW-Whitewater to appeal to the university’s student government.
Templeton will go to UW-Milwaukee this week to talk with their student government about the merger.