Thursday, August 9, 2007

36.09(5) - Shared Governance or Throwing the dogs a bone?

As you might have read on in the Cap Times or Something Verbose, the Board of Regents voted in favor of Chancellor Wiley on the off-campus rent issue. Basically it means that...
Sex Out Loud!, CFACT and PAVE are relegated to the basement of Memorial Union. The Union is going to pay to renovate their space, as offices are in an old flooded space in the basement. However, according to Alex Gallagher, they have no money for maintenance as that line item was included in Off-Campus Rent. So if they want to keep their basic space running, they'll either need to dip into the reserve board (money left over at the end of each year) or cut other expenditures. Does that mean SOL! will have to hold off on the strap-ons? How will the children know how to properly peg each other?

Wispirg is still shacked up with MCSC and the Jewish Cultural Collective is enjoying a cosy living arrangement with Hillel.

But what about the Roman Catholic Foundation? Yes, they're hanging out with St. Paul's for now, but part of their settlement with the UW stipulates that they have to cut ties with St. Paul's. Does that mean UW has to find space for them as well or do we just wait for another set of lawsuits? Gallagher declined to comment on the UWRCF situation stating, "that's too political, I'm not going to get into that...All I can say is those groups have been able to obtain housing for free." Sounds like I'll have to have another chat with Tim Kruse.

It sets up questions about the future of segregated fees, but the bigger issue on the side of ASM is how this hampers Shared Governance. Alex Gallagher said that having Chancellor Wiley mandate a decision from on high violates shared governance, because he didn't directly consult with ASM.

Board of Regents saw it differently. For them, two years was plenty of time to "consult" with students on the matter and ultimately, Wiley has ultimate authority. Well, I'd definitely agree with the regents about the time element, but "Shared Governance" needs some clarification. Let's take a look at it, shall we?

The students of each institution or campus subject to the responsibilities and powers of the board, the president, the chancellor, and the faculty shall be active participants in the immediate governance of and policy development for such institutions.

Ok, right off the bat, it sets out who's in charge. The president, chancellor, board and faculty come first. Now, this is where the ambiguity starts - "active participants in the immediate governance." I feel the students are reading the last part first and the first part last. Yes, immediate governance is taking place, but you're only kids at the table. You get to speak, but not govern. Active participation is such a weak term for something that's supposed to let ASM have their hand in every student decision and activity. As far as I know, "active participation" could be just as deceiving as when Bill O'Reilly tells his guests "As always, I'll give you the last word."

If this were all there is to it, we'd probably not be having this argument. It's the following part that causes heads to be scratched till bloody and raw:

As such, students shall have the primary responsibilityfor the formulation and review of policies concerning student life, services, and interests. Students in consultation with the chancellor and subject to the final confirmation of the board shall have the responsibility for the disposition of those student fees which constitute substantial support for campus student activities.

Ahh, so this is where SSFC gets the idea from. It goes to them first and they discuss it with Wiley, but the board of regents has the final say. It's not just saying they get to sit at the table, it says they're digging into the food, as well.

However, here's where the caveat comes in. Notice the one word missing from this section: power. The "powers and responsibilities" are in the hands of the administration, whereas the students only have "responsibilities." In this sense, 36.09(5) doesn't guarantee governance, it guarantees a burden. The administration hands over some of their work to the students, but when they muck it up, mom and dad take back control and chastise them.

The only way ASM and SSFC recovers from this decision is if the state statute is revised to specifically lay out the duties and powers of student governance in regards to student fees, policies and activities. Lots of luck on that one.

Until then, we're nothing more than glorified lobbyists. Yet, it's still important to embrace that role. If you think complaining about segregated fees isn't an issue, consider this: tuition will rise by 5.5%, about $330, for the year. Segregated Fees are rising by around 33%, 125 dollars a semester.

One is inevitable and essential. The other is a frills package we don't need. and we CAN stop it. I sincerely believe that.

Edit - Quick correction -- the Chancellor's Office is funding the renovation of the Union, not the Union itself. Thanks Suchita.


Suchita Shah said...

Quick correction -- the Chancellor's Office is funding the renovation of the Union, not the Union itself.

Also, I have to disagree with your assessment that the seg fee system is a "frills package." In many cases, yes. However, the increase that you reference is in part due to a referendum passed by students who voted in the ASM election. The referendum asked students if they were willing to pay a little bit extra in seg fees so that we can keep the Memorial Union open and build a new Union South. Granted not all of the increase is due to that referendum, but it can hardly be called a frills package.

Jason Smathers said...

Yes, it was a referedum item - and how many people voted for it? 1,700 students. In any other case I'd accept that figure and the low voter turnout and move on, if it hadn't been for the fact that we voted on it THREE TIMES before the November vote, where voter turnout skyrocketed to 22 percent! Sorry, but that vote lost all legitimacy when ASM failed the student body the first THREE times. I suppose that might be more a failure of our own Technical wizards who put together the online voting, but still, whether that was democracy is questionable.

What's more, those buildings still may never get built, if they decide to cut it out of the UW budget. Yet, we'll have to wait and see with that one.

And thanks for the correction, I'll put in an edit.

As for the frills remark, you tell me how rebuilding Union South is essential to this University and not simply a bigger prettier space and I'll remove my frills comment.

Steven L. said...

I believe it was DoIT that fudged that one up wherein they assured ASM it would all work fine, claimed they had found/fixed the glitch after the first crash, then threw up their arms and told them to go paper after the second clash.Were you an ASMer at the time, what would you have done differently?

Jason Smathers said...

I would have cut my losses at the first mistake. Not because of a lack of faith in ASM, but because I know how hard it is for IT (in any situation) to fix a major network calamity in a week. When you solve on problem, it's usually at the expense of another crucial file that gets fucked up along the line.

Yes, maybe a lower turnout, but when you have a problem like that, you risk alienating the electorate by repeating such a mistake.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. Perhaps I'm a bit too harsh on ASM for that election, but it still hurt to see all those "Union project dies" headlines only to see them proven null and void a few days later.

Which makes me wonder. Steven, I know you will probably have some answer to this: How did ASM miss 450 votes in the third version of the election?

Al said...

The point that UWRCF had to cut its ties with St. Paul's had to do with the governance of UWRCF, not the use of the building. Basically, we used to have a board membership of 9 non-students and 3 students. Now, we have two separate boards- the UWRCF made up of 9-10 students, which controls the seg fees we receive, and the St. Paul's board, which controls all other assets and is made up of 9 non-students and 1-2 student representatives.