The revision of University of Wisconsin System Administrative Code Chapter 17 went virtually unnoticed on the campus. Perhaps students were too busy preparing their pre-game parties for the big
The previous version of Chapter 17 limited university action to egregious acts such as physical abuse, stalking and stealing university property. The new, revised version extends to conduct which “adversely affects substantial university interests.” The new language does not preclude the university from being substantially interested in a whole variety of student activities. The university may suddenly find itself substantially interested in your propensity to urinate in public. While this may sound a bit extreme, public urination is one of the varying offenses this new policy was created to address.
The revision began when members of neighborhood associations in
However, the most frustrating part of these revisions is not the content, but rather the process. It was not due to a lack of student input that these measures were passed. Students from across the state, including your representatives with the Associated Students of Madison, vocally contested the content of these revisions.
Instead, these policies are the product of a stubborn administration that does not seek meaningful student input. Even though the committee making these changes was clearly “formulating a policy concerning student life, services, and interest,” the committee only had two student members. The UW System administration ignored Regent Policy documents, which guarantee these committees have a majority of students. Then the committee circulated it to student governments to get feedback and proceeded to ignore any feedback which undermined the goal of the committee.
As disturbing as all of this is, it is not the first time it has happened. The set of facts for this policy look eerily similar to the revision of segregated fee policy last winter. And thus I present to you the “UW System Flow Chart for Addressing Student Life Issues.”
1. A campus has a problem with some controversial aspect with student life.
2. Forms a committee in which students do not form a majority, thereby ignoring Regent Policy Document 30-3.
3. Have the administrative majorities on these committees force through a policy with ambiguous language granting the institution unchecked authority over the area of controversy. UW System General Counsel Patricia Brady recommends the word “substantial.” The lack of any threshold grants the university administration carte blanche to impose whatever restrictions they desire.
4. Ask for student input on the draft.
5. Ignore any student input which substantively changes the draft.
6. Pass the draft despite widespread student discontent.
It appears the formula was successful in the segregated fee policy revision process, so the UW System decided to implement the same process with Chapter 17 and 18. Through this clear model, the UW System has been able to avoid any meaningful student input in the process. While students may have ceremonial involvement, the final policies demonstrate the token role students have to play in the process. On the controversial subject matter, not a single concession was made to the students.
Despite the Board of Regents’ decision, the policy will not be finalized until the state Legislature ratifies the changes. Now the onus is on students to either stall these Stalinesque rules or face academic sanctions whenever the university may be substantially interested. On a lighter note, those in the Legislature are too preoccupied with getting themselves elected, and we may not see this code passed before Halloween.
Alex Gallagher (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior majoring in history.