Shared government is something that is essential to the functionality of this campus. It allows for faculty, staff and students to participate in significant decisions that concern the way that this institution is operated. Here at this university, Chancellor Rebecca Blank is showing a lack of shared governance.
At the end of last school year, Blank restructured the Labor Codes and Licensing Compliance Committee into the Labor Codes and Licensing Advisory Committee. By doing so, Blank is restricting the communication line between students and administration on labor issues regarding University of Wisconsin apparel and other licenses. With this new committee intact, she is able to make her own appointments to the committee, and she took away students’ rights to be able to hold a leadership position on the committee. It seems as though Blank is trying to dictate this committee and their opinions in her favor, instead of listening to student organizations, such as the Student Labor Action Coalition.
By taking such actions, Blank, who conveniently restructured the committee over the summer, when students weren’t around to protest, is easily able to ignore the unanimous recommendations of the LCLCC. For example, the recommendation for UW to cut its contract with JanSport over its refusal to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, something that all of UW’s licensees are to sign if they have workers in Bangladesh. As I wrote in another column, the workers in Bangladesh are working in a very dangerous environment that is neither safe nor up to standards that are set by the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Safety, but since JanSport’s parent company, VF Corporation has not signed onto this accord, the factories in Bangladesh are literally death traps.
With all of that in mind, student groups, like the aforementioned SLAC, have to fill the role of furthering the discussion on whether to cut JanSport. Blank, however, is making it difficult for student groups, specifically SLAC, to accomplish what they are fighting for — workers’ rights.
Melanie Meyer, a student member of the LCLAC committee, as well as a member of the Student Labor Action Coalition, said, “The changes that were made to [the LCLAC] were made not just to limit the student voice in general, but specifically to limit the influence of SLAC members on this committee. The fact that an advisory committee can be modified by the chancellor, at will, to systematically limit the influence of specific groups is reason enough why shared governance is the better model.”
Additionally, another member of SLAC Maliya Lor said, “Students’ voices are an important part of college institutions because they represent the Wisconsin Idea to spread and apply knowledge beyond the boundaries of the classroom, and this is why shared governance is at the center of that mission. To dissolve the LCLCC, like Blank has done, is to dissolve shared governance and it disrespects the rights of students to exercise the Wisconsin Idea.”
This university is based on the idea of enriching learning that goes beyond the classroom through “teaching, research, outreach and public service.” However, with the structural adjustments she is making to these committees, Blank is making it hard to fulfill this Wisconsin Idea.
Students on this campus and faculty must not forget about this issue, or its impact on the Wisconsin Idea during the holiday season. Shared governance is of huge importance, and it needs to be addressed by Blank soon.
Autumn Linsmeier ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in political science.