Monday, July 16, 2007

SSFC and Chancellor Wiley: reunited and it feels so good

With all the music flowing from the Terrace and High Noon, I nearly forgot to mention an important point of news that happened on Friday.

First, some background. Last year, Chancellor Wiley provided ASM a one-year exemption that allowed groups located off-campus to be funded by segregated fees. In December, Wiley ended that practice and forced ASM to reevaluate the budgets of a few student groups:
Promoting Awareness and Victim Empowerment (PAVE)
Jewish Cultural Center
Sex Out Loud
Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT)
Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WisPIRG)
and UW Roman Catholic Foundation

Instead of reviewing the budgets, ASM decided the ruling was an unfair measure as no state law exists prohibiting the use of Segregated fees for Off-campus rent. Eventually, words went back and forth and we have arrived without resolution, at the Board of Regents, who have the final say.

Although there are certain criteria as to whether the Seg Fee use is legitimate, it is only one criteria for appeal this meeting was concerned with:

c) Does the student-proposed budget item require the university to violate any statute, administrative code, policy, or contract?

A Nov. 8th 2006 legal opinion written by UW legal council Patricia Brady concluded that segregated fee use to fund off-campus rent.

SSFC (now headed by former SRC leaders Katrina Flores and Alex Gallagher) argues that there is no statute in state law restricting the off-campus seg. fee use. Furthermore, they're saying the state statute 36.09(5) (aka Shared Governance) was broken because the legal opinion was written without consultation with ASM.

For once, this isn't about money. If the rent issue passes, then students will have to pay an extra $1.20 per semester.

Katrina Flores and Gallagher first attacked Pat Brady's legal opinion by citing each point and disputing that a law was broken. Certainly, many of Brady's points don't seem to show any damning evidence against the increase, if they are presented in the memo the way SSFC characterizes it. Here's a copy of the SSFC presentation, if you care to peruse.

Here's an excerpt:
Brady assumes campus student activities (Ironically, on a campus whose mission is to expand the boundaries of the campus to the boundaries of the state and beyond) should be literally taken as “on-campus.” This would entail that student groups who hold events off-campus, say a BBQ at a local park, would not be within the campus boundaries and thus they would not be able to choose this location.

...and since ASM hands out travel grants to student groups, I doubt this would ever be an issue.

So, with no stipulations specifically restricting rent from being funded, what is the problem?

Well, Elton Crim came to make the presentation for UW-Madison. Basically, the presentation boiled down to "Chancellor Wiley has the authority to be the final word on this decision." Sorry, that doesn't work in an appeal. Remember ASM's decision is subject to the decision of the Chancellor and the Board of Regents. Since the Board of Regents already laid out their stipulation for appeals, you might want to argue to that point.

That's exactly what Chancellor Wiley tried to do himself, when prompted by the board.
Here is a direct quote of his remarks regarding "potential implications:

Let me say, first, that I can agree with pretty much everything said. I agree completely with the importance and impact on students. I'm especially concerned about the status, the fragility and durability of the whole seg fee system if we're not very very careful. There are many issues, current, right now, that could potentially endanger the entire system and eliminate seg fees, allocable seg fees, at least, totally and I think that would be catastrophic. In trying to be very very careful with the way we administrate seg fees, I asked Patricia for a decision. That's why she wrote it, I asked, are we on shaky ground here...As long as their opinion followed all the procedural policies and was legal, I would pass along and support to the board of regents their recommendations and I've done that faithfully. This happens to be one case in which I was told by legal council it would be illegal. That's really my whole decision right there...This is a very vulnerable position. There are some organizations off-campus, that have buildings, that are going to be there whether they get rent from us or not. And this provides the groups to subsidize their budgets, for the maintenance of their organization. among other things. there are other possible scenarios, you can imagine, that would come up and will come up if the payment of off-campus rent is deemed to be legal or desirable.
Sort of ambiguous. What would make that a problem, exactly? Besides, isn't the point of GSSF fees to maintain these student organizations, anyway? I think the real problem that Wiley cites is funding rent for UWRCF when they're currently housed in St. Paul's (or, I suppose, Hillel). If that's the case, what's the problem? UWRCF has been forced to separate itself from St. Paul's, so the conflict shouldn't exist anymore. Later on, Wiley mentions "One" org that brought up contract status and made them question this decision...could it be...UWRCF?

Wiley later said his decision was to correct a mistake by a former Chancellor. When pressed for information, he cited Donna Schalala.

The meetings ended with the board asking Chancellor Wiley and SSFC to talk in the meantime to try and work out a compromise on the issue.

There are a lot of ends and outs here, and I don't want to post my full opinion on the issue until I obtain a copy of Pat Brady's memo, tomorrow. However, I have a lot of homework piling up and a birthday tomorrow.

I promise, I'll be back to clarify.

1 comment:

Critical Badger said...

ASM has far less power than I imagined. Daddy Wiley and the Regents, baby, running the show.