Come May 1, a new Associated Students of Madison Student Council will be sworn in. This new Student Council will elect officers from within the council to the positions of chair, vice chair and secretary.
As leader of ASM, the chair is the most important officer, presiding over meetings and making impartial decisions to ensure fairness. Only one person has declared her candidacy for ASM chair: Katrina Morrison, current representative and chair of the Student Activity Center Governing Board.
Through her actions at ASM council meetings this past month, Morrison has time and again demonstrated a lack of impartiality, proved she would not advocate for all students, shown poor demeanor at ASM meetings and is included in a pending discrimination suit filed against ASM. In the end, a Morrison chairship would be detrimental to the student body and the future of ASM as an institution.
As previously reported, Morrison motioned to suspend the ASM bylaws at the April 12 ASM meeting during Passover to form a new subcommittee, of which she was a co-sponsor. By being a co-sponsor to this subcommittee, Morrison’s motion proves she is unable to be impartial on delicate issues in which she may be invested in or have a strong opinion on.
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Rep. Ariela Rivkin had previously sent communication asking current Chair Carmen Gosey to not present any such legislation because of the absence of Jewish students due to Passover. By motioning the bylaw change, Morrison silenced Jewish students of UW and overtly disregarded the legitimacy of religious holidays. Impartiality and ensuring all student voices are heard — regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or creed — is vital to a successful chairship and successful student council.
Furthermore, Morrison has repeatedly shown she does not hold herself in a mature demeanor expected of student council representatives.
On April 27, Morrison gave a diatribe during open forum that was, in her own words, “petty,” full of “yelling and screaming” and “actively shut down opposing points of view.” The content of this tirade was much more disturbing. Morrison found it laughable the Jewish community would have concern with an ASM meeting occurring on Passover because “there is no university policy that requires ASM to observe holidays.”
The university in fact gives guidelines to faculty regarding absences due to religious conflict. As Americans, it is a tenant of not only the First Amendment, but basic human decency. Morrison later rescinded her apology, doubling down on her claim she felt holding the vote on Passover was appropriate.
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My religious observance is no laughing matter. Jews have been persecuted across the world for more than 3,000 years. The holidays and customs I and fellow Jews adhere to are one of the reasons for the Jewish people’s perseverance. For Morrison to disregard that myself and my people would have an issue with a vote during religious holiday is unsympathetic and downright malicious toward the Jewish community, and further cements she is not representative of all students.
As a Jewish student at UW, I was deeply hurt on April 12, when myself and 12 percent of the student body (approximately 5,000 students) were excluded from the democratic process. I worry students of all religious groups under a hypothetical Morrison chairship could be excluded from future conversations germane to them, as I was.
Lastly, Morrison’s effectiveness as ASM chair would be compromised from the onset due to allegations of discrimination toward Jewish students in connection to the April 12 meeting. Due to her motioning to suspend the bylaws, Morrison was included in a suit against ASM calling for sanctions against her on the grounds of discrimination.
The suit states Morrison made her motion “against open protests from ASM representatives.” On April 27, the Student Judiciary unanimously sent the case forward to a May 2 hearing due to the merit of the petitioner’s case. Since Morrison could be sanctioned and possibly suspended from ASM the day after the new student council is sworn in, it is the duty of other council members to elect a less problematic and toxic representative to be ASM chair, especially one that isn’t being considered for sanctions.
It is no secret — ASM is an unpopular institution. Just recently, an ASM councilmember was forced to resign due to sexual assault allegations. In the most recent ASM election, only 9 percent of the student body actually turned out to cast votes. If elected chair, Morrison’s numerous issues would only exacerbate ASM’s unpopularity.
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Morrison’s actions have shown she is not devoted to building bridges between communities and would be unsuccessful in fostering constructive dialogue in regard to future issues of fragility. Morrison simply cannot choose to disregard groups whose ideas and opinions don’t fit into her worldview because of political expedience to her causes.
Issues related to the state Legislature are sure to continue as the state grapples with the governor’s current budget, meaning the $48 million allocated to students is far from safe. It is vital to have sound, untainted leadership to negotiate with the state.
Because of her numerous problems, I implore students to contact their ASM representatives to vote no on Morrison as ASM chair. Competitive elections are a basic tenant of democracy. For only one person to be running for chair, let alone one with so many issues, further demonstrates the fundamental flaws of ASM. Because of this, I also implore ASM council members to challenge Morrison and run for chair. If not for democracy, then for basic decency. The future of ASM as we know it depends on it.
Gordon Bentley ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science and history.