I’m a Wisconsin kid through and through. I love this state. I love this university. I bleed Wisconsin red.
Growing up, all I wanted was to attend the university I had fallen in love with. A little over four years ago, my dream came true, and I was accepted to be a Badger.
As a senior getting ready to graduate this May, I know how much the University of Wisconsin has given me. I know how special Madison is. I know how important it is to maintain the immense quality this university provides, and I’m fully committed to doing all I can to ensure that.
With that being said, there’s an elephant in the room we must address: Being a Republican on this campus isn’t a walk in the park.
While those on the left preach tolerance, this does not apply to conservative students. Nowhere is this more obvious than in our student government — the Associated Students of Madison, a group that boasts about their “high” 11 percent voter turnout for spring 2016 elections while claiming to represent a student body that has little to no idea what ASM does or how much control they truly have.
ASM has violated their contract with our student body. Article IV, section 1 of the ASM constitution clearly states the body shall not discriminate on the basis of political ideology. Unfortunately, they do not practice what they preach.
All it takes to see ASM’s activist, partisan nature is a long look at the legislation they pass every semester — riddled with attacks on Republican legislators and proposals that would make even U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, roll his eyes.
Here’s the most prominent example of their partisanship: Gov. Scott Walker just proposed a budget that increases funding to the UW System by $140 million, lowers tuition for Wisconsin students by 5 percent (yes, 5 percent) and increases need-based funding for impoverished students to an all-time high.
This is an extremely favorable budget for students, the UW System and higher education across the state. UW System President Ray Cross stated, “This is the best … budget proposal we’ve had in over a decade, and we need to be appreciative,” and went on to explain the budget shows Walker recognizes and understands the system’s values.
Yet ASM is attacking the governor, because his proposals might mean these extremist, activist-agenda-pushing members of the supposedly nonpartisan student government will no longer be able to require students to pay allocable segregated fees. The same fees which fund ASM’s ability to carry out their liberal agenda.
Rather than acknowledging all of the budget’s benefits, ASM made a political stance. They never cared to find out if the students they represent were OK with them taking such a political stance in such a fashion — they just did it.
They somehow felt their 11 percent voter turnout gave them a mandate to speak for all students and have continued to use our allocable segregated fees — paid by 100 percent of students — to push their one-sided liberal policies. And in 2017, their turnout was even worse. Just 9 percent of students voted in these student elections.
Walker’s budget gives the students of UW the right to opt out of their allocable segregated fees. He is giving students the freedom to decide if want to fund a student government they don’t believe truly reflects their values. Further, Walker lowers the financial barriers for students to attend UW schools, making college more affordable for the first time in decades.
ASM would do well to recognize claiming to be in favor of college affordability means nothing if they oppose action to make college more affordable, simply because it is a Republican who is behind it.
While ASM claims to stand with students, they play favorites when it comes to allocating these segregated fees.
There are 990 different registered student organizations on campus, according to the Wisconsin Involvement Network. This year, ASM divided nearly $1.2 million between just 14 student organizations. The remaining 976 student organizations were left with $535,000 to be divided among themselves. Here’s what that means —14 student organizations averaged $85,372.14 in funding from ASM, while the other 976 averaged $548.16.
And no, ASM does not award each of these organizations equally — in fact, hundreds of student organizations receive no funding from ASM at all. You see the disparities here, right?
On average, these 14 student organizations receive 155 times more funding than the other 976.
Walker, the Republican legislators and our student organization understand making college more affordable means finding areas to cut the cost of attending across the board, not just in tuition. Segregated fees, for too long, have been funding programs using the money for all for the benefit of a few.
The preamble of the ASM constitution states they are “a student government that will selflessly pursue the ideals of all without denying the ideals of one, that will be responsive without being repressive or restrictive.”
Unfortunately, today’s ASM does not live up to this promise. If ASM was truly nonpartisan, they would be embracing the budget with open arms and acknowledging everything it does for students and the university, but instead they continue to engage in partisan rhetoric and fail to represent students.
Alex Walker ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science and former chair of College Republicans.