Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Nice try ASM, but enough is enough

I couldn?t help but feel a bittersweet appreciation for the Associated Students of Madison this week.

After being so wrapped up in the April Fools? election for Dane County Board, I almost missed ASM?s attempt to herald their own triumph of democracy. In preparation for the three-day online ASM elections, their part-time webmaster created something I?ve been wanting to see since fall 2006 ? justification for the ASM candidates.

Ever since I cast my vote based on poorly photocopied pamphlets with an unexplained category of ?slate,? I?ve been waiting ? since my very first column for The Badger Herald ? for ASM to take my plea for substantive campaign promises and reasoning seriously.


This time they offered a veritable bounty of electoral hors d?oeuvre and, with the occasional freshman candidate, comedic dessert. Despite bare-bones statements from some, the change could encourage students to vote for an ASM leader based on his or her determination for reform, something that has been completely obliterated from ASM?s lexicon.

Instead, the most inspiring message was also the most bleak. When asked in the ASM questionnaire what Student Council ? the legislative and ?central? body of ASM ? actually does, Alex Gallagher, candidate and current chair of the Student Services Finance Committee, submitted a response that puts it as bluntly as possible:

?[F]rankly I cannot say exactly what it does. It?s hard to say ASM represents the students when fewer than 10 percent vote in elections and Council often loses quorum halfway through the meeting.?


To say that ASM has some flaws is like saying smallpox is just a few pimples. The proposals they?ve actually made can be lampooned at some length ? the grocery store ?hook issue? may have been the UW equivalent to Mayor Dave?s trolley system ? and very few initiatives actually take hold. The Student Rights Campaign, though a noble effort to advocate for students, came too late to change the Segregated Fee Committee?s already solidified alterations. (Although those changes may have been a good thing for the system in the end.)

However, it?s more a question of what ASM hasn?t done: govern.

Which brings us back to Student Council. I challenge anyone on campus not connected to ASM or who is not a close friend of a representatives to list a single person serving on SC. The council does not exist to advocate on behalf of students, it exists to masquerade as representation. There has been almost no communication between SC and the student body ? or this newspaper ? and it rarely initiates any legislation itself. The one commendable measure was capping ASM?s internal budget to a 7.4 percent increase per year. However, that happened to be Mr. Gallagher?s SSFC carryover and not an act SC would have initiated without his influence.

Furthermore, their duties are suspect at best. There is a requirement for SC members to make at least one effort a year to lobby for lower tuition. If they do not accomplish this before April 1, it counts as an unexcused absence on their record. If the current tally of lobbying efforts on ASM?s website is correct ? which requires quite the leap of faith ? then every member of SC has some legislators to talk to.

The same goes for required town hall meetings; they?re supposed to inform their constituents of ASM?s activity at some point during the year, but only

one member of SC has done so, according to ASM’s requirement records.

By all indications, ASM has a major problem in its central leadership but even more so with its inherent structure.

And so it?s music to my ears to hear that candidate and current Shared Governance chair Jeffery Wright has his head on straight. Mr. Wright says he?ll work to reform SC by rewriting the bylaws to force SC to evaluate and approve all ASM campaigns and measures, try to reconfigure past campaigns ? such as course evaluations ? and generally have ASM hold themselves accountable to the student body.

This all sounds like an improvement. And I?d go a step further and say that perhaps a popularly elected figurehead president would be in order ? one authoritative voice that can lobby City Council, the state Legislature and UW administration.

But then there?s another alternative. One that ASM probably wouldn?t like, but seems to eliminate some of the problems of our student government.

Scrap it.

Well, not completely. Basically, the skeleton of ASM would be finance and SSFC. Those committees, Student Judiciary and a greatly reduced SC would stay intact, but only to deal with the finances of segregated fees.

However, the remnants of Shared Governance could form as a special interest group ? think of it as Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. for students. In that group, which would have open membership to the student body, the policies normally discussed in smaller committees and thrown under SC?s rubber stamp would be hammered out at these meetings, and the group would pass resolutions to lobby for issues as a whole ? be it higher tuition, better labor standards or even beating CNI on the alcohol issue. If ASM is so concerned with having a ?seat at the table,? maybe they should just bring their own table.

But notions of campus revolution went out with ?The Student Government.? Maybe we don?t need another standoff like that, but if ASM is going to have any credibility in the future, it better change something.

Because this is certainly not government. And it hasn?t been for some time now.

Jason Smathers ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism and history.

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