Political tensions ran high at last night's Associated Students of Madison meeting when the group decided to adopt a referendum opposing the civil-union and gay-marriage ban up for vote in November.
ASM passed the resolution by a narrow 11-9 margin. This is the third political issue ASM has publicly opposed in the past, along with the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act.
Student Council member Samantha Ziesemer said she supported ASM's resolution against the ban on civil unions, which informs the UW campus of the election Nov. 7.
"The main thing that will happen is the diversity committee will spread awareness of the issue and inform other student organizations carrying ASM's name," Ziesemer said.
Eli Judge, chair of Students for a Fair Wisconsin, was at the meeting to support the council's decision and to provide his perspective on the ban's opposition.
"I think it's really important to realize this will affect UW for decades," he said. "The way I see it, it would be nice if the student government that represents me as well as the thousands of others on campus took a stance."
Representative Andy Peterson said taking a stance against the ban was impossible because the student body ASM is meant to represent has split opinions on many different issues.
"How can you make that decision when there are students on campus who believe different things?" he said. "I don't want us to become a political pawn — especially with the elections coming up."
Arguments circled around the table about whether the referendum was a political or student issue and how the board should view it.
Representative Erika Lopez echoed the sentiment that civil liberties directly correlate to student life, therefore falling under the realm of ASM.
"We shouldn't be taking a political position, but this is an issue that a lot of students on this campus care about," she said. "We need to show solidarity and represent them to our fullest ability."
The main argument in support of the statement against the civil-union ban was that students' education would suffer because professors would not be able to receive domestic partnership benefits, an issue recently spotlighted with the departure of engineering professor Robert Carpick in August.
According to Danny Sprin, communications director for Students for a Fair Wisconsin, Carpick not only left an educational void, but UW lost his valuable research funding as well.
"When that professor left he took $3.4 million of his research funds to Pennsylvania," Spirn said in a phone interview with The Badger Herald. "If Wisconsin doesn't have a friendly climate they will continue to lose high level professors — in the long run, hurting the university on the whole."
Student Council member Zach Frey said he fears ASM's resolution will cause backlash among the student body.
"Our funding is not supposed to go to partisan action," Frey said.
Student Council member David Lapidus echoed Frey's sentiments and said the decision could divide the UW campus and discredit ASM.
"It might actually turn people off to the system and ASM," Lapidus said. "We're taking ASM to even a lower level than people think it is at."
Although the issue caused an emotional quandary, Ziesemer said she is proud the student government took a stand for what the majority believed.
"We're not going to let a little political pressure stop us," Zeisemer said. "We aren't trying to sway anybody's vote, but rather educate them of the issues."