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Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Who deserves ASM seats?

Let’s face it — no one’s going to go marching up to the fifth floor of Memorial Union anytime soon to demand changes. So with the three-day online elections starting today, the only truly useful thing for me to do is to outline what exactly the issues are and what candidates are planning to do about them. And no, I’m not talking about the grocery store.

Since 12 seats at stake are in the School of Letters and Sciences — and 24 candidates are running — let’s start by eliminating candidates. Now, let me make this clear: I don’t intend to snipe here, but the biggest problem with Associated Students of Madison is that the oft-maligned “r?sum? padders” and do-nothings largely cancel out the innovators and hard workers. Since most students have no idea who to vote for, it might be easiest to first outline who is far too incompetent to represent the student body.

Last week, I sent an e-mail to 23 candidates L&S listed on ASM’s candidate matrix asking for a video interview or further clarification of their policies. Of those, two candidates — Jake Strauss and Eitan Horwitz — said they prefer not to be interviewed.

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That’s fine. I prefer not to vote for you. Next.

Some other candidates who did not respond to requests can be written off just as easily by looking at their questionnaire responses to the question: “While on student council, what would you like to accomplish (be specific)?”

Anyone who answered with nothing more than “I want to represent the student body” — Ben Coggins, Mark Siegel, Paris Glazer — should be automatically disregarded. Representing the student body by “being there” is what reduced ASM to a stagnant pond of administrative fluff in the first place. And frankly, how you plan on representing students when you won’t even respond to e-mails from them is beyond me.

Of course, there’s only seven votes to cast, so, as long as it’s clear the above are off the table, it’s time to talk about who is more legitimate.

First off, we need to look to those who will reform the system. ASM Student Council often doesn’t have a high voter turnout because most students don’t know what it does, and some on ASM aren’t so sure either. Current member Alex Gallagher understands this. He has been more invested than anyone in making Student Services Finance Committee — which controls your segregated fees — accountable and certainly has the same in mind for Student Council. He has already gotten started by putting a cap on ASM’s internal budget. In this sense, depriving SC of his presence would be a crime.

Shared Governance Chair Jeffery Wright takes reform a step further. He intends to rewrite the bylaws of Student Council to force Student Council to vote on measures presented by ASM’s other committees. Shared Governance’s reworking of the bylaws, entrance into the blogosphere and management of a massive system of university committees is indicative of Mr. Wright’s accountability and leadership potential on SC. It should be noted that I know both these individuals and have personal knowledge of their investment in ASM.

Jessica Pavlic recently led the secession plans from Capitol Neighborhoods, Inc., along with Mr. Wright and Ald. Eli Judge, District 8, which was remarkably successful, unlike so many other ASM ventures. In addition, she supports a presidential figurehead to be elected by the student body to hold ASM accountable, demanding representatives from United States Student Association justify their existence and thousands of dollars in funding to Student Council.

Student Services Finance Committee members Adam Porton and Kurt Gosselin have also proven their worth in adhering to a strict eligibility standard on SSFC. A debate between the two and newcomer Joey French, revealed that both now have non-allocable segregated fees in their sights. Putting those two on Student Council with Mr. Gallagher would almost certainly ensure fiscal responsibility for ASM.

Those five people certainly deserve your vote, and the other five individuals mentioned have no business being on SC. But the rest is a toss-up. Tony Nguyen has the right idea that ASM should focus only on initiatives that “directly benefit our education,” but his relative newcomer status means at least part of that time will be spent learning the ropes. The same stands for Jennifer Brody, who would like to see an expansion of the textbook initiative but admitted she has no current involvement in ASM. Michael Matter argues for having another library open and getting more students educated about ASM elections, but is light on specifics. These candidates may deserve placement on Student Council, but their success or failure, and that of all potential representative, depends on their ability to communicate the details of ASM to a student body that has plenty of reason not to care. And if ASM still doesn’t do the things they should be — bypassing Steve Nass, finding allies in the state Legislature and focusing their power on a few specific initiatives each year — they should all be held accountable.

In the end, it may still come down to popularity, but with a fairly descriptive explanation from each candidate at www.asm.wisc.edu and three days to decide, hopefully, this time around, this torturous case of d?j? vu will finally come to an end.

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

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