When our Editorial Board made internal predictions as to the result of the Associated Students of Madison’s constitution vote, my gut feeling was that it would pass. For better or worse, I do not have any close relations with anyone on the inside of ASM, so my prediction was based purely on my own personal thoughts.
After years of illegitamacy and failed communications, I figured those who cared about rebuilding our student government would realize it was do-or-die time. It was time for a big campaign — a pulling out of all the stops.
The result of the “outreach efforts?” Fifteen percent of students turned out to vote — which may actually be considered a success. But taking the glass half-empty approach, 85 percent of students did not vote. And the 2,345 students who did support the constitution make up a measly 5.8 percent of the student population.
We threw in our support, The Daily Cardinal’s editorial board threw in their support, College Democrats threw in their support. I know, I know, the Herald Editorial Board is irrelevant — I lose sleep over it every night. But aside from an e-mail to students late Monday night showing off the endorsements, it does appear as though ASM didn’t take advantage of the aforementioned groups’ backing.
In an article in today’s Herald news section, several ASM members — including the leaders of the constitutional movement — admitted a lack of outreach, teaching and communication resulted in a lack of student support. What baffles me is how they did not see this coming or plan for it ahead of time. Poor outreach in the past has always been ASM’s pitfall, and they have admitted just that on numerous occasions. Why they did not reach out — e-mails and flyers don’t count — during the vast majority of the process astonishes me.
ASM members handed out flyers on Library Mall on Monday and Tuesday while asking, “Have you voted yet on the ASM Constitution?”
“What constitution?” one student replied.
On Tuesday night, as I engaged in casual coversation with plans for the evening, I told some friends I would be at work around 10 p.m. to hear the result of the constitution vote.
“What constitution?” “What vote?” “Oh, did we get an e-mail about that?” “Huh, why wouldn’t it pass?”
And there’s your other 85 percent. The general student population. Not a clue. There is ASM’s failure and part of the reason the constitution failed.
The other main reason, obviously, was the Vote No Coalition. Clearly they did something right and there is something to be said about grassroots organizing. Regardless of whether Vote No violated election rules — and if they did, it’s a terrible blemish on a group who took the type of basic approach to the vote that ASM should have — their margin of “victory” was substantial.
I do think six members of the coalition invading the Herald office at 1:45 a.m. Wednesday — presumably after a night of celebratory drinking — is silly and immature. Instead of trying to bother our staff — all but six of whom are not on the Editorial Board — and sparking lame confrontations in the wee hours in the morning, it’s time for a serious discussion regarding the future of student representation on this campus.
But they deserve credit and garnered significant student support behind them. We called for ASM to disband, but the likelihood of that does not appear to be all that strong. Vote No can jam their own people into the current system and have their agenda passed through, but if there is any time for new individuals to step up, it’s now. Grassroots efforts mean more than just the ideas of a few — they mean including those who haven’t been heard before, reaching out to people who haven’t cared in the past. I think that’s part of the reason some no-name Illinois senator is sitting in the Oval Office.
I guess that’s my take on what happened. As for what’s next? Good question.
Tom Schalmo ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.