Members of the University of Wisconsin student government grappled with whether to support new initiatives in the last meeting of the session and voted to formally support the New Badger Partnership for the first time since the proposal was announced.

Representatives debated the possibility of the Associated Students of Madison taking a formal stance on the New Badger Partnership, which some members said was not a matter that should be addressed before the changing of the guard to the 18th session.

Vice Chair Adam Johnson said it was imperative for ASM to adopt a formal stance on the plan and students have inquired why the student government had remained neutral on the controversial proposal.

He said it is the role of elected officials to take stances on such issues.

“I’m ready to make a tough choice because it’s our job as elected representatives to make decisions based on what is best for constituents in the long run,” he said.

University Affairs Chair Carl Fergus said he did not support a move to a high tuition, high financial aid model for the university, and that the proposal would evaluate students based on whether they can afford tuition instead of based on intellectual capability.

He added the public authority model would render the campus an institution that no longer resembled the same university known to current students.

Chair Brandon Williams said he supported the Partnership, saying the proposal, though not perfect, would provide for increases in need-based financial aid and allow higher education to remain accessible and affordable to all Wisconsin families.

“I think this model is the only way our institution will succeed in the future,” he said. “This will make our university better.”

As tensions escalated, three representatives left the room and only one member maintained the required quorum of 12 required to vote on the issue.

The measure passed with 12 votes in favor and one abstention, under the caveat that shared governance practices would continue, two students would be appointed to the governing board for the university and need-based aid would increase, among others.

Extensive debate also focused on the possible creation of an ASM Sustainability Committee, which Fergus said could address environmental issues on campus more effectively than an already overburdened body in existence.

Members also considered a proposal from Fergus to enter a contract with the ZimRide online ridesharing program, already in use across other UW System campuses.

He said the program would allow students a more secure and dependable way to find rides and a three-year contract would cost $36,000 of the money in the ASM budget that remained unspent.
Williams said the plan did not fit a cost-benefit analysis and characterized a decision to initially enter a contract lasting multiple years as irresponsible.

After Representative Sarah Neibart proposed a sunset clause to the program that would limit the contract to one year, the council unanimously adopted the measure.

The governing body also granted final approval to proposed changes to the Campus Services Fund that Student Service Finance Committee Chair Matt Manes said would hold student organizations neutral by not allowing ASM to contract with campus groups for services.