Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Students deserve Halloween voice

In the coming weeks, this year's Halloween celebration in Madison will continue to be a hot-button issue. Unfortunately for students, while the majority of the attention has been paid to decisions and discussions of the City's Halloween Planning Committee, several extremely suspect decisions made at the University level regarding Halloween have gone unnoticed by most of the student body.

Unbeknownst to most students, this summer a secret "Halloween Task Force," was formed in order to draft the University's policy regarding this year's Halloween celebration. After meeting for most of the summer, this committee, composed of top administrators and staff at the university, ranging from the interim Dean of Students to representatives from UHS, housing and the Wisconsin Union has drafted and approved what the University is calling the "Official UW-Madison stance regarding Halloween."

I don't dispute the fact that the University has an interest in a peaceful and safe Halloween celebration and that it should lay out clear expectations for an event that thousands of students take part in. In fact, on the surface, there are many positive aspects about the University's policy, including its main goals and objectives: "To work in partnership with the UW-Madison students and support their efforts for a safer, less destructive Halloween weekend" and "To reduce or eliminate disruptive and destructive behavior during Halloween weekend."

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However, any positive aspects of the policy are quickly obscured by the fact that during its key drafting and approval phases, UW Madison students' rights to shared governance were severely undermined.

Though this policy places several significant restrictions on student life and activities, including banning University Housing residents from having guests and forbidding student organizations to hold late night events in the Unions and around campus, it was drafted and approved without any involvement, participation and/or decision making from students.

In response to the outcry that shared governance was ignored during the writing of this policy, the Dean of Students Office has retreated behind the line that the University's Halloween stance is not a shared-governance issue, but a "health and safety issue." However, no matter how hard you search, if one actually reads Wisconsin State Statute 36.09(5), which clearly states, "Students shall have the primary responsibility for the formulation and review of policies concerning student life, services and interests," you won't find the caveat "except for health and safety issues."

Though they have tried valiantly to use the front of "health and safety" as a rationale for excluding students from the process, the fact remains that yet again, the administration has overstepped the bounds of shared governance and has violated our rights by making significant decisions about student interests, student life and student services without including students. All students are obviously directly affected by this policy — not just the students who live in dorms, but also the students who pay segregated fees to keep Memorial Union and Union South open and are not allowed to hold events in the facilities.

Perhaps what is most troublesome is that the efforts to shut students out of Halloween decision making appear fairly intentional. Though all it would have taken was a phone call or e-mail to find several students eager and available to sit at the table and participate in the discussions throughout the summer, administrators made no efforts to contact ASM or any other student leaders to invite them to attend the meetings and give their input. In fact, when both students and staff stepped up and voiced concern that students were not at the table, these concerns were pushed aside or ignored with the promise that opportunities for students to "give input," would arise later on in the process. Not surprisingly, this generous offer was not extended to students until after decisions were made, and input, though nice, is not the same as shared governance. Shared governance allows students a voice and a seat at the table when decisions are being made, not after the fact.

It's time for students to step up and make it clear to administrators that they will not tolerate being shut out of decisions made on campus regarding Halloween. Though one forum should in no way be mistaken for shared governance, attending the Halloween Forum sponsored by ASM on October 6th is a great first step to voicing your concerns over the process. ASM should be commended for making Halloween one of their key issues of the semester and hopefully they will continue to pressure the administration to address its wanton disregard for shared governance and convince it to involve students in the decision-making for Halloween. No matter the ultimate outcome, the only way the Dean's Office can expect students to buy into and support decisions made about Halloween is if they have a voice at the table when they are created.

It is my hope that the issue of Halloween will continue to be discussed by the city, students and UW administrators, and that the decisions made will lead to a fun, safe and responsible celebration that will ensure the continuance of a time-honored Madison tradition. Unfortunately, at the University level, this kind of honest, open debate regarding Halloween has yet to take place. If the University hopes to achieve its first Halloween goal, to work in partnership with and support UW-Madison students, actually talking to students might be a good place to start.

Janel Wise ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science and journalism.

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