Associated Students of Madison
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The Associated Students of Madison (ASM) is the official government of UW-Madison’s student body. ASM primary cause is to maintain and improve “…the quality of education and student life on campus.”. A 33-member, popularly-elected Student Council (SC) acts as the legislative body of ASM. .
In June of 1992, the Wisconsin Student Association, the long-standing UW student government, was disbanded by student vote. It was not until February 1994 that the new student government, ASM, was formed.
Organization and Structure
The Associated Students of Madison is composed of three core bodies: Student Council, whose members are elected by the student body; Student Services Finance Committee, whose members are a mix of elected and appointed officials; and Student Judiciary, whose members are appointed by the ASM Nominations Board. Separate from these groups are a range of "grassroots committees" — Diversity, Academic Affairs, Legislative Affairs and Shared Governance. There are also a group of "closed committees" that deal with the sub-operations of ASM — Finance, Nominations Board and Student Print Board.
The main legislative body of ASM, SC is responsible for a number of tasks, including:
- Approving the actions of all ASM campaigns and committees
- Approving the budgets of SSFC, Finance Committee and ASM
- Appointing the chairs of grassroots and closed committees
- Acting as the official voice of the student body and updating campus on its progress once a semester
- Serving on various ASM committees
- Approving referendum items
SC is comprised of 33 elected representatives, of which three are appointed chair, vice chair and secretary of the council. Chairs of each lower committee give reports to the council (or submit one in their absence) to brief them on their progress on various campaigns and policy issues. Election of all but three SC representatives occurs in the spring; three freshman representatives are elected in the fall.
Student Services Finance Committee
SSFC is responsible for the oversight and distribution of segregated fees to student groups and services on campus:
- Non-allocable Fees — fees SSFC provides recommendations for such as Memorial Union, UHS, Intramural sports, but allocation ultimately rests with the chancellor and UW System Board of Regents
- Allocable Fees — fees for the General Student Services Fund, ASM's internal budget and ASM Bus Pass, which are controlled directly by SSFC and approved by the chancellor
Budgets for GSSF groups must first pass eligibility hearings before presenting their full budget for consideration. Any line item cuts or denials of eligibility for a student group must be defended in a viewpoint-neutral manner, meaning a group's message can play no role in whether SSFC chooses to award funding. Student groups are awarded funding every two years. Even if the criteria for eligibility changes after the first year of funding, the student groups approved will still receive funding for another full year.
GSSF eligibility standards were altered in 2008 to say a majority of a groups time must be spent on direct services that are available upon request, can be tailored subject to the needs of recipients, are accessible regardless of participation or membership in the group, are available continually throughout the year and are not an individual event, series of events, publication or a leadership development opportunity for group members. This change has led to a drop in the number of groups receiving GSSF funds.
A major part of qualifying for eligibility includes direct services a student organization provides. A group must prove they provide a direct service to the university as part of the application to receive funding. A direct service can be used by anyone, including members of the community or faculty. The current eligibility criteria from the ASM website state a direct service is defined as:
- The service must be available upon request
- The program can be tailored subject to the needs of the people within the group's mission
- The service must be available to anyone regardless of participation/membership in the group
- The service must be available throughout the fiscal year
- The service cannot be a single event, publication or leadership building program for members of the group..
Six members of SSFC are elected in the spring for two years, while five are appointed SC members and another five are outside students chosen by SSFC and approved by SC.
SSFC is one of three bodies in ASM which deals primarily with an allocation process, namely, of segregated fees. The other two bodies which allocate either space or funds are Student Activity Center Governing Board and Finance Committee.
Currently, there are discussions between the three bodies as to whether SSFC should approve the allocation processes of each of those groups. There are members of SACGB who feel SSFC does not have to oversee their work. The bylaws of the ASM constitution would have to be amended for this change to occur.
For student groups who require funding for travel, events or smaller operations, Finance Committee is able to provide smaller grants on a case-by-case basis. In addition to the above mentioned grants, they also dole out $200 automatic "Open Grants" to Registered Student Organizations.
On an annual basis, Finance Committee has authorization to dole out up to $160,000 on operations grants, $250,000 on events grants and $100,000 on travel grants. This is a slight alteration which will come into effect FY2011.
In contrast to the strict regulations for GSSF funding, finance committee funding is usually only subject to a few requirements: the group requesting funds must be an RSO and they must demonstrate that their request benefits the campus.
SJ oversees all disputes relating to conflicts in the ASM bylaws, constitution and election. Most disputes, following the Supreme Court case Southworth v. University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, deal with alleged violations of viewpoint neutrality in relation to allocation of segregated fees. SJ also has authority over the conduct of Registered Student Organizations.
Nominations Board is in charge of appointments made to key committees in the case of at-large appointments or vacancies. This includes seats on Student Activity Center Governing Board, Finance Committee and SSFC. Student Council appointments are only made in the case of vacancies. In addition to closed committees, nominations board is also in charge of choosing ASM staffing positions such as webmaster and press director, though these positions must be approved by Student Council.
Comprised of the leadership of ASM (Student Council leadership and the ASM committee chairs), this committee deals with the internal direction of ASM, such as upcoming legislation, ASM staff and other holistic matters.
Student Activity Center Governing Board
This board is responsible for the management of the student activity center, including desk staff, maintenance and, most importantly, the assignment of office space to qualifying student organizations. They also have the power to remove these organizations from their office space if they violate certain regulation, such as bringing alcohol into the SAC.
SACGB is responsible for presenting the SAC budget to Student Services Finance Committee. The committee approved $306,550 for the SAC fall 2010 budget.
Among some of the uses for the funds in the budget include SAC floor manager salaries and programs to help students connect with the student organizations within the SAC.
During the office space allocation process to give student organizations leases for July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2012, the board ran into issues with viewpoint neutrality. The board changed their criteria for allocating space during the process, which members of ASM felt could be construed as viewpoint neutrality violations.
While there were no actual viewpoint neutrality violation were ever found, the board had to freeze their decision making until they sought University of Wisconsin legal counsel. The board reverted to their original criteria and the decisions were made without further issues. Katy Ziebell was the chair of the board at this time.
Student organizations can apply for office space in five suites, three large offices, four medium offices and 22 small offices at the SAC.
In order for student groups to receive office space in the SAC, they must be a registered student organization, have no intentional policy violations in the last two years, be either a General Student Services Fund group or ancillary fund group and use their office space for at least five hours a week in the academic year.
A number of groups have been denied office space by SACGB, including Wisconsin Singers for bringing a dog into their office space and Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow for alcohol containers found in their office space garbage cans.
Academic Affairs deals with "current student issues," including funding for the university and textbook issues. Academic Affairs is best known for hosting a textbook swap each semester.
The Diversity Committee is focused on promoting a healthy and diverse campus climate. Since the fall of 2009, Chair Steven Olikara and the committee have emphasized a move toward "a broader definition of diversity that considers all aspects of one’s ideas, character, and background," according to their website.
Legislative Affairs is the main lobbying body of ASM and is responsible for dealings with legislators at all levels of government, though efforts are usually focused on a state level. Members of Legislative Affairs (occasionally along with other members of ASM) work in tandem with United Council (the state student government association) and United States Student Association (the national student government association) to lobby lawmakers for increased funding for higher education, financial aid and improved legislation regulating textbooks.
Shared Governance's chief duty is to give all students at UW a "seat at the table" on all matters of administration. The committee appoints students to dozens of faculty/administrative committees all over campus.
Students may apply for any number of committees in the spring (and for freshmen, in the fall). A group of SG volunteers already appointed to committees choose which of the applicants are best served for a certain committee.
SG holds a weekly meeting at which appointed members report back on their respective committees. The chair then makes a short report at SC meetings, bringing forth any issues that may need special discussion.
SG holds the "Move-Out Night" in August on campus in the Student Activity Center where students can park in designated university parking lots with their belongings when their lease ends and their old lease has yet to begin.
2006 Spring election failures
Beginning March 28, 2006, ASM held spring elections for two referendum items: one porposed an increase in segregated fees to pay for renovations to Memorial Union and the rebuilding of Union South (at the time, called the Wisconsin Union Facilities Improvement Plan, or WUFIP ) and another that would support a living wage for workers funded by non-allocable segregated fees (mainly, those at the two unions). Halfway through the elections, however, the election was abruptly cancelled after it was revealed by Student Election Commission chair Tim Leonard that the online voting system was unable to handle the large student turnout and "high level of write-in candidates." SEC was criticized at the meeting by members of the Student Labor Action Coalition (proponents of the Living Wage referendum), who expressed their disgust over halting a democratic process. It was later revealed by DoIT the votes from the referendum had been saved but SC votes had been lost.
As a result, the election was split in two. However, April 5, the SC election was cancelled once again, as there was a discrepency in the number of votes counted and the votes logged. As a result, SC elections were held one more time (this time by paper ballot) starting April 11, 2006. However, that Sunday, members of the SEC announced the results of the referendums (which revealed that the WUFIP referendum had failed and the Living Wage had succeeded) had been nullified due to the 436 votes DoIT did not account for. SEC admitted those votes would not have changed either election (the Union referendum failed by 695 votes while the Living Wage referendum failed by 2,108 votes) but said the democratic process must be ensured. The referendum was rescheduled for fall 2007.
The third student council election passed with no problems but a 3 percent voter turnout.
The election issues led to the formation of a splinter group called "The Student Government" led by ASM critics Brad Vogel, Steve Schwerbel, Sol Grosskopf and former Dane County Supervisor candidate David Lapidus. After a few weeks, the group ceased to function, but both Grosskopf and Lapidus found spots in ASM themselves. Lapidus was appointed to SSFC, and Grosskopf eventually became Chief Justice of Student Judiciary.
The Union/Living Wage referendums were held once more on October 18 and 19 the following semester, with the Union project being renamed the "Student Union Initiative." Both passed, but only six percent of the student body voted.
ASM proposed a new constitution in the spring of 2009 after spending six months crafting a structure that would include an executive branch overseeing a 33-member senate. After a vote that attracted 15 percent of the student body, the new constitution failed with 61 percent of students voting against it.
Ever since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of UW in Southworth v. University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, SSFC (and to a lesser extent, Finance Committee) has been under scrutiny for the reasoning used for denial of funds to student groups. Complaints were filed early on by MeCha , CFACT and MCSC, among others. Although MeCha and CFACT were eventually denied eligibility, others have modified their services or fought SSFC rulings successfully to recieve funds.
The most prevalent of these cases is the decision over whether to fund the Roman Catholic Foundation of UW-Madison. RCF applied for funding back in 2005 and was denied funding on the basis that it was "exclusionary" in their membership practices. Since then, numerous lawsuits have been filed — both with SJ and Circuit Courts — to restore funding. The most recent ruling decided the religious nature of the organization does not prohibit them from being funded, and they are entitled to the remainder of their 2006-08 budget of $255,000. However, On Feb. 24, 2008, SSFC denied RCF further eligibility on the basis of lack of an "additional significant component." On May 22, 2008, former chancellor John Wiley reversed that order and granted RCF eligibility saying that SSFC improperly denied them funding when they decided that their viewpoint was not sufficient for an "additional significant component."
In 2009, the Campus Women's Center, Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow and Wunk Sheek were denied funding by SSFC. The groups have since brought a series of appeals and suits against SSFC, all of which have been dismissed by the Student Judiciary.
In January of 2011, the ASM Finance Committee's travel grant coffers were reduced to only $1,200 for the remainder of the semester, despite 20 additional grant request that were yet to be heard. Matt Manes, Finances Committee Chair, elected to fund 12 of 14 travel grants heard on at a January 25th meeting through deficit spending. Student Council Chair Brandon Williams remained apprehensive of such decisions, stating that grants for travel "...takes things away from campus and doesn’t bring as much back as on-campus events." Williams thought giving out smaller grants to more groups represented a better solution than deficit spending. At the time, it was suspected that as-yet-uncounted surplus funds from last semester may cover the deficit.
- Constitution fails
- Academic Affairs in-depth
- Diversity Committee in-depth
- Finance Committee in-depth
- Legislative Affairs in-depth
- SSFC in-depth
- ASM gives $25K for travel grants
- ↑ http://www.asm.wisc.edu/about-us.html Associated Student of Madison, “About Us”, retrieved 01/21/2011
- ↑ http://www.asm.wisc.edu/constitution-of-the-associated-students-of-madison.html#Article VII Constitution of the Associated Students of Madison, Article VII, retrieve 01/21/2011
- ↑ http://badgerherald.com/news/2011/01/25/asm_gives_25k_for_tr.php ASM gives $25K for travel grants