As current representatives and representative-elects of the Associated Students of Madison, we are writing to express our concern that Interim Chancellor David Ward has not honored ASM’s decision to approve a contract for Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group and we urge Ward to respect our decision for the next fiscal year. 

The Associated Students of Madison, the elected voice of over 40,000 University of Wisconsin students, has voted several times to request a contract for WISPIRG for fiscal year 2012-13 and fiscal year 2013-14, but in light of recent public clarification and the upcoming meeting with student leaders presenting the General Student Services Fund budget for fiscal year 2013-14, we find it necessary to reiterate our stance and support. 

The decision to not grant WISPIRG the contract requested by the 17th session of ASM is a violation of our rights as students to allocate our segregated fees, a right granted to us by Wisconsin State Statue 36.09(5), and a right we seek to defend. We also consider the unwillingness to work with ASM to find a sustainable solution to this issue as an erosion of shared governance on this campus. 

Ward’s interpretation of F50 suggests students cannot fund groups like WISPIRG the way the group has always been funded. But in fact, when F50 was passed in 2007 the Board of Regents stated they were voting for it with the understanding that it would not prevent WISPIRG from receiving funding from ASM in the manner that it has for the past 24 years. 

While we understand the chancellor’s responsibility to uphold UW, UW System and state policy, we are confident we are completely within the policy and our rights to grant WISPIRG a contract. Students have voted for years to grant WISPIRG a contract and past chancellors have ultimately all decided to respect student decisions and approved the contract. 

We have also looked at the policies the chancellor cites in his open letter, mainly F50, but also other state procurement policies and system policies, and nowhere in the actual policy does it say that what we are doing is wrong. The additional requirements interpreted in the policy the chancellor claims to uphold are stripping away our power as students to determine where our fees go. 

We believe the opportunity WISPIRG provides students to work on issues affecting our campus, our city and our state embodies the best of the Wisconsin Idea, the guiding principle of our university. As our university’s website states, “education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom.” The skills gained while working with WISPIRG allow students to take their “in-the-classroom” education and apply it to make positive change in our Wisconsin community. These skills are in no way “teachable” in a classroom setting.

We urge the chancellor to take into consideration the 4,600 students, 120 professors, 20 student organizations, numerous state legislators and ASM, who support WISPIRG’s contract status and the rights that students have to allocate our fees. As current and elected representatives of the ASM, we are dedicated to fighting for WISPIRG, student rights and maintaining the integrity of shared governance on UW’s campus. 

David Gardner, Courtney Jackson, Mia Akers, Mary Prunty, Justin Bloesch and Ryan Prestil are representatives of Associated Students of Madison.

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