The Associated Students of Madison Student Council announced their position on the new COVID-19 Student Relief Fund Proposal and appointed leadership for the 28th session.
ASM affirmed its support for the latest version of the COVID-19 Student Relief Fund, from which any University of Wisconsin student can apply to receive financial assistance. UW administrators have found issues with ASM’s proposed COVID-19 Student Relief Fund since March and continued to shut down the fund and amendments to the legislation.
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The proposed COVID-19 Student Relief Fund would give priority status to students who can prove recent unexpected losses of income or severe rent burden due to the COVID-19 pandemic, participation in scholarship programs that serve underrepresented students.
The relief fund legislation also extends priority to those not covered under the CARES Act, which includes undocumented students, DACA recipients and international students. At a crossroad, ASM and administrators struggled to compromise on a solution for a relief fund program with the Reserve Board’s segregated fee funds.
ASM Chair Mathew Mitnick introduced several new clauses to the relief fund in Tuesday’s newest statement. Mitnick explained the compromise ASM leaders and members of the Reserve Board made with administrators and how relief will be officially provided to UW students during the meeting.
“[Members of the Reserve Board] are taking the money that is currently sitting in the reserves, based on the seg fees that [students] have already paid for during this current fiscal year, and giving back the amount that we can based on what is sitting in reserves,” Mitnick said.
Mitnick said Reserve Board can give UW students $45 to $50 back from their segregated fees. Students will then be presented with an option to donate this figure to the COVID-19 Student Relief Fund. Mitnick said this is not the ideal solution, but it is the least they can do.
ASM made it clear that if UW takes necessary measures to combat student struggles amidst the pandemic, they should not have to provide additional relief in the future. ASM also encouraged the Office of Student Financial Aid to administer the refunds as soon as possible. ASM passed the legislation and mandated that students should receive the aid by June 2021 at the latest.
ASM also discussed considerations for the 28th session regarding American Indian Affairs. Tribal Relations Director Aaron Bird Bear spoke during the meeting about Ho-Chunk relations with the university.
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Bird Bear spoke to ASM about the significance of Indigenous peoples to the UW community and encouraged ASM to recognize the historical background of the Ho-Chunk Nation and its relations to the university.
In their consideration, ASM recommended that the 28th Session collaborates with Indigenous student organizations and scholars to determine and carry out a process for creating a land recognition statement that could be read before each student council meeting.
During the meeting, Rep. Chris Unterberger expressed concerns regarding the occupation of the land of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Myaamia, Ho-Chunk, Sauk and Meskwaki, Peoria, and Kiikaapoi. Unterberger claimed it did not include all Nations of Indigenous peoples.
Despite this discrepancy, the legislation unanimously passed.
Additionally, ASM unanimously passed the Extra Credits Surcharge legislation, which advocates for UW to eliminate the surcharge as all other schools in the UW System have already done.
According to the legislation, ASM claims the surcharge unfairly penalizes students who did not take AP classes, students who have changed majors, students suffering from the inequities of the College of Engineering, international students and students unable to enroll in classes required for their majors due to lack of availability.
“Every other school is making this change, besides [the University of Wisconsin-Madison],” Mitnick said during the meeting.
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ASM also approved all proposed appointments for the shared governance committee. Diverse Engagement Coordinator Crystal Zhao resigned during the meeting due to frustrations with the shared governance committee, whose amendments were rescinded.