A group of student advocates is suing the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System over the allegation that the UW-Milwaukee Administration refused to recognize the 2013-2014 student government elections, according to a statement from the Alliance of Students Achieving Progress.
Taylor Scott and Mohammad Samir Siddique filed the lawsuit in Milwaukee County last week, claiming the university’s administration illegally chose not to recognize Student Association of Milwaukee elections and calling for the creation of a new constitution.
“I know that many of the students on the Board of Trustees believe they are doing the right thing due to their lack of knowledge about shared governance,” Scott said in an email to The Badger Herald. “But hopefully the complaint can act as a sort of crash course on shared governance and make them realize that the [UW-Milwaukee] Administration is exercising undue influence and interference.”
In a letter to UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Michael Lovell, Vice Chancellor Michael Laliberte said the results of an independent investigation into the UW-Milwaukee student government election process revealed multiple inconsistencies, including a lack of party registration forms, a lack of public debate and ballot irregularities.
Based on these irregularities, Laliberte said he would recommend the UW-Milwaukee Administration not recognize the election results. Lovell subsequently informed the association’s President, Teriza Pelicaric in a letter that the UW-Milwaukee Administration refused to recognize the election results.
“The UW-Milwaukee Administration is committed to giving our students a full voice in the shared governance system,” UW-Milwaukee Vice Chancellor Thomas Luljak said in an email to The Badger Herald.
Luljak said the administration would not take questions on the issue because the university typically does not comment on matters involving litigation.
According to the complaint Scott and Siddique filed in the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, the student court issued orders to postpone or cancel the October 2013 elections.
The administration used a different student organization known as the Student Association Professional Staff Office to interfere in student government activities, the Alliance said. Although the UW-Milwaukee Student Association eliminated funding for this organization, it has continued to operate using student funds.
“There was several times last academic year that SAPS tried to enforce their own written policy into the daily-workings of the Student Association,” Scott said. “Additionally, SAPS hold the signature authority for the Student Association.”
The official complaint said the intention of the administration-controlled Student Court to enter into contracts, make budgetary allocations and appoint student representatives could cause irreparable harm to the legitimate student government.
The Alliance said the administrative involvement that is being challenged in the lawsuit could be legitimized in a new Student Association Constitution as students vote in a referendum that will continue until Sunday.
“If the referendum is allowed to pass due to their misleading of the students it will muddy things a bit, but I have faith in the court to take the appropriate actions to either prevent, or fix, the damage done,” Scott said.
Despite these concerns, Luljak said in an email he looks forward to a fair and student-led election process in the spring.
Luljak also included a video describing the reforms the students involved in the election process wish to make with the new constitution.
“We support the students’ current efforts to change the Student Association constitution in order to ensure fair and balanced representation for all,” Luljak said.
[Photo via Flickr user Jeramey Jannene]