Very quietly last Friday, Student Government — the organization that rose out of the Associated Students of Madison's electoral fiasco and promised meaningful change on the University of Wisconsin campus — folded. The group's demise, predictably, made far fewer headlines than its rise. And in a certain sense, this is for the better, as it only serves to spare a great deal of the UW campus the pain that necessarily comes from being fleeced.
Indeed, SG emerged at one of the most trying times in ASM's history and promised a better, more soundly constructed, shinier product. The people would have a true voice, segregated fees would deflate and bureaucracy would be tamed.
In hindsight, the snake oil sure did look like a bargain.
While SG has played the classic political card claiming victory on the way out the door by proclaiming that a campaign of ideas was waged and won, the reality is that this campus is only the worse for the organization's short-lived tenure. So many — including this board — invested hope, energy and political capital into trying to legitimize the fledgling movement. We always knew there was a very good chance SG would fail, but we also realized that a genuine charge to the throat of ASM might be enough to scare the incumbent government into meaningful reform.
But SG never waged the war it promised. There was no constitution, formal meetings never rose above the level of tavern-style chatter, and, in the end, it appears the people we hoped would bring about meaningful opposition simply gave up before the new session of ASM was even empanelled.
SG, it seems, never delivered much of anything other than a few poorly lit photo opportunities and some gimmicky sound bytes. Much of its core membership now prepares to take office within ASM — the beast of a government they just weeks ago promised to tame — and word of reform from within is quickly fading across this campus.
To be sure, SG was a substantial failure and it is not because its founders met the institutional barriers many realized it might. Rather, it is because on one Friday in late April, a group of college students realized it was in over its head and decided to fold.
Harold Hill sold his trombones and Springfield bought its monorail. Now the UW student body has its own bill of goods.