This semester, I had the pleasure of working with the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group in the Madison Student Vote Coalition’s voter registration drive. WISPIRG’s involvement was pivotal in helping the coalition to register over 6,000 students to vote.
WISPIRG’s successes on campus since 1989, such as voter registration drives and preventing student loan interest rates from doubling, is possible because of their professional staff. As a former leader of the Associated Students of Madison and as current vice president of United Council of UW Students, I have benefited immensely from my collaboration with WISPIRG — although I personally have not been directly involved in WISPIRG. They have provided trainings on recruitment, have helped me develop upcoming leaders and have provided advice in strategic planning of campaigns. WISPIRG’s professional staff are essential to the health of the campus community.
In response to the Dec. 5 editorial about WISPIRG’s funding, I firmly believe students must control the means by which our segregated fees are allocated. Through ASM, we students entrust this power to the Student Services Finance Committee, composed of both elected and appointed members. Furthermore, that power is granted by state law. I expect SSFC to guard this trust by defending and expanding its right to allocate student fees.
Because SSFC holds an immense amount of power in the allocation of more than $40 million from students, it must abide by University of Wisconsin System guidelines and also create additional policy as it sees fit. Specifically, SSFC must follow the guidelines for allocated student fees outlined in University of Wisconsin System Policy F50, and I respectfully disagree with the position that the rules have been bent to fund WISPIRG. Last year, ASM Student Council and SSFC collaborated with UW Legal and the Office of the Chancellor to draft a contracting process, but the UW administrators ultimately did not respect the process, and thus the decision, to fund WISPIRG.
If Chancellor David Ward genuinely seeks to be the governance-friendly chancellor he claims to be, he should respect the contract process ASM has already approved. Furthermore, to truly be the stewards of segregated fees, SSFC also must champion student power. After years of frustrating dialogue, students finally have a process by which student organizations can contract professional staff. It is time we use it to defend and advance our right to allocate segregated fees.