When I was accepted to the University of Wisconsin a year ago, I was excited about the opportunity to study at a world-class educational institution. More importantly, I was stoked at the knowledge I would no longer be represented by the cesspool of Illinois politics and would instead have my voice heard by that paradigm of purposeful politics — collegiate student government. I have fond memories of an undergraduate experience enhanced by the hard work of my student government, and because I am a Democrat and expect government to solve all of my problems, I was certainly ready for handouts to flow my way during my sojourn here in Madison.
Needless to say, I was shocked — shocked — when I started reading The Badger Herald and that other student paper-thingy and learned the Associated Students of Madison were going through some tumultuous times. The idea that ASM could be ineffective and students would choose to avoid the elections blew my mind. Voter turnout numbers that resemble the Indiana basketball team’s winning percentage make UW students look like apathetic schlubs. Clearly, something must be done to stoke the students’ passions toward ASM.
During the early portion of the millennium, the student government at my alma mater found itself staring at a sad state similar to that stymieing ASM. The student newspaper was filled with depressing editorials, and the skies over campus were always cloudy and gray. That was until one of the paper’s comic guys nominated his cartoons, Gordon T. Gnome and Hale T. Snail, for president and vice president of the student government. Before one could say “mockery of student government,” the editorials became much more exciting and student interest in the election increased like one of those Graph Giraffe comics.
Speaking of the Graph Giraffe, could there be a more perfect candidate to take on the tall task of curing what ails ASM? Just imagine the Graph Giraffe running for the new ASM president position! Who wouldn’t devote 23 seconds to put down the stellar Herald columns to vote for a comic? And as a side bonus, someone might actually read that other paper to keep up on the latest campaign propa-graph-da. Heck, if one comic isn’t enough, White Bread and Toast could also throw their crusts into the ring, giving the UW community not only its seminal ASM president, but also the answer to the age-old Badger Herald vs. Daily Cardinal debate.
My hack columnist intuition tells me the “Interest in the ASM Election” vs. “Number of Comics Running for President” graph would slope upward, but in the spirit of upholding the high journalistic standards of The Badger Herald, I decided to conduct a rigorous scientific poll. Based on a survey of UW students I met at a bar Saturday night, 100 percent would rather be bludgeoned by an engineer’s scale than answer another question about ASM, but 100 percent said they would vote in the ASM elections if they could vote for a comic character. The margin of error of this sample is probably about 91 percent but still means it’s a lock that the comic candidates would draw more students to the ASM ballot box than the 7.3 percent who voted in the election last spring.
With the voter turnout conundrum solved, ASM would finally have legit numbers to flaunt, and UW students would improve their image to witty, sarcastic apathetic schlubs. The more wonkish folks in Badger Country are probably thinking running a student government from the comics page makes about as much sense as Jason Smathers and Gerald Cox’s inexplicable decisions to cut off their respective ‘fros, but given the current effectiveness of ASM, UW’s new comic overlords should be able to at least maintain the status quo.
Even better, whereas ASM’s current press releases and newspaper articles touting their latest proclamation or reminder that no segregated fees were used to buy the pizza are generally met with a collective hiccup from the inebriated student body, at least in comic form those same announcements would be a minimum of 8.94 percent funny.
After a semester of waiting for my rightful handouts from ASM, it makes me feel warm and toasty to know there is still hope that my fellow students can get jacked about student government elections.
And in case the reader is wondering whatever happened to the Gnome and Snail, their elections were ultimately negated on a technicality in one of the few successful endeavors undertaken by the student government. However, “Snailgate” was such a farce that less than a year later the Illinois Student Government ceased to exist, and the students finally had the government that they deserved.
Zachary Schuster ([email protected]) is a graduate student studying water resources engineering and water resources management.