Editor’s note: Eric Schmidt, Director of the Wisconsin Union Directorate Distinguished Lecture Series, recused himself from this opinion.
When it comes to the Wisconsin Union, this board — and likely many members of the student body — hate that segregated fees are going to fund the reconstruction of the new Union South. We have stated in the past that the Student Union Initiative was an unnecessary proposal and irresponsible use of what is essentially student taxation to remedy what is essentially a nuisance at its worst.
What’s more, we acknowledge the vote to approve this project was illegitimate. The combination of poor management by DoIT and even poorer justification for a revote by the Associated Students of Madison the following semester played equal parts in ruining the democratic process. Students were effectively forced to accept the plan by way of attrition.
Of course, we also recognize that this was more than two years ago. The Legislature approved the plan, and we are building a new Union South.
Student Services Finance Committee Secretary Tyler Junger understood all of this when he, along with a slight majority of SSFC, voted against a measure to keep segregated fee funding for the Union South project constant — at $96 per year, starting next academic year –when construction begins.
Aside from making SSFC look absurd by advocating an unrealistic proposal, the execution of such a measure would only result in segregated fees being raised the next year. Considering rising construction costs are already boosting the final price tag of this project, members of the student body should be more wary of future handouts than the ones already given to the Wisconsin Union.
However, while we disagree with how SSFC Vice Chair and Herald columnist Kyle Szarzynski voted on this matter, he is right about one thing: The Wisconsin Union has to be held accountable by students. That starts with making sure the Union comes prepared to SSFC meetings with a proper explanation of how it is spending the Union building funds obtained by segregated fees.
Junger’s proposal to have SSFC evaluate these budgets in tandem with the Union is at least a first step. If the Union continues to treat SSFC and the student body as a farce, we urge Chancellor Biddy Martin to hold off on any funding decisions until the students have had adequate input on the budget.
Only if that fails should we start talking about more drastic measures.