Although Tyler Junger’s opinion column from Dec. 5, 2008, provides some helpful critiques of both the Associated Students of Madison’s press office and the proposed constitution, his piece is misguided and calls for accountability from the wrong place.
ASM needs to do a better job of communicating with the student body. However, that responsibility falls on its leadership and elected representatives — not just the press office. The office was created to do a better job of helping the organization communicate with the broader campus and serve as a conduit for our message. Junger’s opinion piece was mistaken to say that the press office needs more accountability. Rather, it is the elected representatives of your student government that should be held accountable. Jason Smathers was correct when he called for a need to opine, (Oct. 23, 2008) but this needs to come from elected members.
Junger argues for a press office headed by a “well-paid employee of the government with low job security.” This is exactly what we created this September. The press office members are paid hourly and could be fired if they were not doing their jobs. However, this is not the case.
ASM leadership and the press office have identified concrete changes that will begin in the coming semester. The press office has spent the last semester creating a plan for ASM press relations. They have sent out mass e-mails to the student body. At the same time, the office recognizes that mass e-mails are not incredibly effective. We are hesitant to bombard the inboxes of the entire UW student population on a whim. In the past, we have e-mailed the student body about monumental things like elections and constitutional listening sessions. The press office and ASM chair are working to create a weekly update e-mail plan that will keep students informed without causing annoyance. This will begin in the spring.
Although there may have been technical glitches on the press office section of ASM’s website, one month ago the press office section did not even exist. We created the page so we could communicate better with both the media and the students. Visit the press office page at www.asm.wisc.edu/press-office.html, and find all the press releases produced by the press office. By posting releases online, we are giving every student access to student government news — even the news that doesn’t make the papers.
A survey has also been in the works for the past few weeks, but it will not reach students until the beginning of next spring. This was very consciously done in an effort to actually get feedback — if students are stressed out by finals and the end of the semester, a survey from their student government may not make their daily to-do list. We will be sending it out in the spring in an effort to actually get feedback that will help us serve students better.
ASM values students’ input. In the past, this appreciation probably wasn’t very obvious. We are working to change that. The press office section of ASM’s site contains a feedback box that gives anyone the opportunity to voice questions, concerns and advice. But we’re not stopping there. The webmaster is currently working on an interactive wall for the ASM website that should be completed by semester’s end. This addition will mean students can post their input and have it seen directly by ASM leaders. Student Government can then respond, facilitating a two-way communication model between students and ASM.
This is a revolutionary year for ASM, and successful change depends largely on the student body. A healthy, functional Student Government should be a priority for every student, because it positively impacts the student body’s higher education experience. Consider this a cordial invitation to join the process. Visit www.asm.wisc.edu/press-office.html, and tell us how ASM can do better. Although we are doing all that we can to improve communication, we welcome your ideas and would love any constructive feedback.
Brittany Wiegand, ASM Chair, and Saul Hafenbredl, ASM Press Office Director