The Associated Students of Madison Student Council met Wednesday, March 30 in a Coordinating Council meeting to approve five delegates and one alternate to attend Big Ten on the Hill, a lobbying event with other Big Ten schools through the Association of Big Ten Students in Washington, D.C.

The Coordinating Council is a group of paid ASM leaders — including committee chairs and campaign coordinators — that meets biweekly to organize and discuss current projects.

A conference selection committee, comprising ASM Chair Adrian Lampron, Vice Chair Lennox Owino and Legislative Affairs Chair MGR Govindarajan, elected delegates for the event. Last Wednesday’s Coordinating Council meeting ended in a vote to approve the delegates, with six yeses, three nos and four abstentions.

In an email statement to The Badger Herald, Vote Coordinator and Coordinating Council member Margaret Keuler said the process of choosing delegates favored efficiency over transparency. Keuler cited bylaws 3.05(2), 3.07(11)(b)i, (b)ii and (b)iii as those not followed in the process of approving the delegates.

These bylaws limit multiple appointments, require transparency in the selection process and acceptance of applications through the application period in addition to communication about changes of that period.

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Instead, Keuler said, the ASM chair, ASM vice chair and Legislative Affairs chair made the selection without creating an application or sending outreach emails, and there was no transparency on process for how they chose their delegates. The result was a non-representative group of delegates, according to Keuler.

“One out of the six selected delegates is a woman, it is very clear to me that whatever haphazard selection process was used was biased,” Keuler said. “After seeing two women within Coordinating Council leave this past year, it should have been a huge wake-up call to the lack of inclusivity that exists, but then situations like this happen.”

According to Lampron, the compensation committee wanted to discuss their selections at the student council meeting March 23, but ASM was unable to confirm or even discuss the delegates at the last Student Council meeting because they lost quorum by the time the discussion arose. By the time the coordinating council met Wednesday, it was too close to the conference to make any changes, Lampron said.

According to Lampron, ASM did not receive information about the conference until the beginning of March. Then the delegate application process, which is outlined in ASM’s bylaws, began.

“Basically, we figured out there wouldn’t be enough time for us to do the three-week application window that it asked for,” Lampron said. “So we wanted to do a smaller process where we just pick folks [who] we thought would be the best representatives of our organization to go lobby in D.C.”

The five delegates who will attend the ABTS conference are Lampron, Govindarajan, Sustainability Chair Ashley Cheung, Dominic Zappia and Press Director Tyler Katzenberger with SSFC Chair Maxwell Laubenstein as an alternate delegate, according to a Vice Chair Report.

Lampron, who has served as the Equity Inclusion Chair for ASM, said the selection process was not based on delegates’ identity.

“Once we had picked the folks we thought would be the best delegates, we were like, ‘Is this an okay representation?’” Lampron said. “And we felt like we could go forward with the folks because we were really confident in the delegates, and I know they can speak well on issues we need them to speak on since that’s the main point of our trip. And I’m excited about the delegates we picked.”

Lampron said the committee originally reached out over spring break via check-ins and text messages to people they thought would be interested in going to the conference, then narrowed it down to the five delegates and one alternate. Lampron contacted these people based on their previous work or interaction with federal policy issues. The committee reached out to some interested people but did not select them. 

Ultimately, Keuler feels there is hypocrisy in who is subjected to following the rules and who is not.

“I have sat through these student council meetings and a good chunk of it is time reviewing minuscule bylaw violations,” Keuler said. “So do we get to pick and choose when the bylaws come into play? After the bylaws were blatantly ignored on every single step of this process, we really need to ask ourselves who is left out and who continues to be left out of this organization.”

Lampron recognizes ASM made mistakes throughout the process and said they feel bad that members felt excluded by the process and by the result. The situation is a question of shared governance, the idea of sharing decision-making power at UW, specifically with those significantly impacted by the decisions or issues at hand.

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“In particular, Student Council did not vote on the rules for the delegate selection process,” Lampron said. “The way we went about it rightfully troubled some leaders within the organization, and the committee members and I regret that we went about it in this way.”

Shared Governance Chair Reez Bailey, who was not at the meeting, said he does not approve of the process used.

“I have spoken with the ASM Chair, and I know that they are working to address the situation and move forward,” Bailey said. “I trust that we are going to be able to work through this as an organization.”

Lampron said the Conference Selection Committee has spoken with or has plans to speak with those who raised concerns.

The inadequacies in this year’s selection process, Lampron said, will inform future years and help improve the overall culture within ASM. Specifically, they want to make sure to appoint more members to the conference election committee and hope to have more time to go through the correct process.

For Keuler, Wednesday’s meeting exposed aspects of the ASM culture that she finds expressive of ASM’s values.

“I would really, really like to give the benefit of the doubt, but I find it extremely difficult to believe that any of this was done by accident after everything I have seen while a part of this organization and is a clear indicator of the culture that exists within ASM,” Keuler said.

Lampron said they are aware of the concerns about issues with the culture at ASM.

“On a larger scale, some of the feelings of folks involved and impacts I was talking about last night are not just about this conference obviously,” Lampron said. “People just kind of feel excluded in general and not feeling the sense of belonging that everybody feels so or not everyone’s feelings and doesn’t belong.”

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This year, ASM has done internal focus groups to see what they could be doing to create a better environment and help people do their jobs better. Advisors are still compiling results from that, and they will be discussed before the end of the session, Lampron said. Additionally, ASM is planning to have another recording council meeting to talk about what people have learned this year and what the coordinating council can do next year to make a more inclusive work environment.

Big Ten on the Hill attendees from the University of Wisconsin will lobby legislators such as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Kenosha) and Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua). The students will lobby on issues about divestment from fossil fuels, clean energy investment, affordable housing and college. The lobbying event will take place the first week of April.