Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ashok, Where you at?

WSUM 91.7 FM, that's where. Tomorrow, on The Badger Herald presents The Jason Smathers Show (although its apparently still labeled as "The Smathers Hour") at 10am, Mr. Kumar will come on to discuss everything from the county board race, his article, the oft-discussed (or alternatively, not discussed) attendance record and anything the listeners would like to call in and ask. CB, SV, Opsal, I'm looking at you.

The number is 608-265-WSUM. Feel free to call in.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Search and Screen: Why the big deal?

So, as you might have noticed from this blog or (probably more accurately) Mr. Spirn, the search and screen committee was a little heated and contentious.

Now, when we're talking about a search for the next Chancellor, it's obvious that tons of people are going to vie for these two spots and the debate over representation is an important one to have. However, what I saw that night represented both the dedication of ASM to really accurately represent students and their failure to make significant progress.

They started interviewing people at around 5:15, starting with Alex Gallagher of SSFC. After beginning with a little more lengthy presentation, Jeff Wright and the rest of them agreed that they should limit the questioning to two questions and another general question about the time commitment.

After the twelve candidates went through and made their case, ASM members left after the two hour interviews went back to the fifth floor of Memorial Union and debated the candidates. They ended up seeing four candidates as strongest — Alex Gallagher, Suchita Shah, Kaja Rebane and Erik Paulson.

Now, Kaja made a great presentation of her involvement at the graduate level, as she's the co-president of TAA and would certainly be their advocate at the table. Given how strongly she felt about Mr. Wiley's problems with the Legislature, she was obviously going to be very critical of anyone who stepped foot into that room claiming to be Chancellor material.

Then there was Suchita. Who many of us in the blogosphere and at the paper know. Campus Queen? Well, if that's what you label her, maybe it's deserved. While she certainly has the resume, credentials and ideals to back it up, Suchita admitted herself that the presentation and interview she gave was a little weak. However, that was probably just nerves. She impressed much of ASM and that's to be understood — she's a neuroscience major that runs with College Dems, did SOAR, did research on the Charter Plant, the list goes on and on. Perhaps the list is almost sickening to some on campus who would ask, "Yeah, but does she understand the concern of students?"

And when it came down to it, that was the second biggest question: Who's going to represent students best?
The biggest question, however, was of what would be a greater fault — two graduate students representing campus or two ASMers?

I personally felt that two graduate students would be a huge mistake and Jeff Wright and others seemed to agree.

Here's what really angered me about the ASM argument. They were worried that the student body would see this as unrepresentative of campus. Excuse me? So, ASM is arguing that they don't represent students? Great way to boost your legitimacy. As I said there and will say again, if you don't believe ASM is viewed as doing just that, then maybe you shouldn't be part of ASM. Let's not forget, ASM is technically the entire student body. The people who serve on committee are just those who showed more active involvement and engagement (most times) in campus. Even the resume boosters have to know something to get on those committees.

That being said, we all know ASM has major flaws that need to be fixed. But you can't say that they (some of them) aren't trying.

Yet, above all, the most bizarre part of this discussion isn't that it went on for 2 hours or that it came down to two tie votes. Or that some people thought the TAA agenda was something to be supported without opposition. Although given how visible pissed off she was, that certainly did serve as a big dent in her application.

It was that the tone of the discussion wasn't really a debate, even during its most heated portion. It was people making opposite points without criticizing the those opinion. Someone mentions the ASMers problem, then someone mentions the Graduate student experience and how they have a more broad approach then we anticipate. Then someone else mentions the same first point. And someone else broaches the second point again. Very little discussion of the actual qualities involved in searching for the next chancellor occurred, most focused on what the student body is going to best represented by.

Basically, it was like if the debaters had headphones on so as to not hear the other side. There were certainly concerns, but I'm not sure people we're really making their points very well.

Now, let me just say, for the people who stayed, that was dedication. To spend two hours deciding over five people can get tedious when you've already spent an additional 2 hours and 15 minutes listening to candidates.

However, when people start defending candidates simply because, "They have a passion" but discount other candidates because, "He talked too much about private fundraising," that's bullshit. Yes, we're a public university, but that comes from how well the chancellor communicates the true position of the university to Rep. Nass and the constant skeptics. Private fundraising requires just as much, if not more work. And it is far less guaranteed.

But I digress. Suchita was finally voted in along with Erik and they adjourned. Jeff looked visibly shaken, but he really held it together well considering the strange isolated debates going on among the crowd.

Apparently they're both going to be holding listening sessions with different schools, so once that starts to happen, I'll go cover that. However, for now, I'm concerned with ASMs role. I only wish I could have been more involved, from an earlier stage, steer it a little.

Wishful thinking.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

And the reps for Search and Screen are...

Erik Paulson, a graduate student in computer sciences dept., former academic staff and undergrad.

Suchita Shah, of College Democrats, The Herald and pretty much anything else you could think of.

I'll elaborate on this a little later, but it was a hard fought battle and it exposes a lot of the strengths and flaws of Shared Gov. That'll come later.

Hey Erik...About that ASM Book Sale...

I think I have another reason why that book sale didn't work out too well. I checked my inbox about 4 minutes ago and saw this:
Do textbook prices have you down…?
Low on Money…?

Well then bring your textbooks to the ASM/CALS Textbook Swap so that you can receive more money for your books than you would at a bookstore, and buy your used textbooks for less.

ASM/CALS Textbook Swap

When: Monday January 21st
Where: Great Hall Memorial Union
10am-12pm: Drop off books to be sold
1pm-5pm: Buy used textbooks

Yeah, that JUST came into the mailbox. I mean, I understand that mass emails might get a little clogged, but the day after? That's embarrassing. Come on ASM, get it together.

Friday, January 18, 2008

RCF: Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends.

So, after another court ruling seems to have put UW in its place with regard to UW's rejection of the Roman Catholic Foundation, the bloggers either seem to be breathing a hesitant sigh of relief. But there's still a lot of questions.

First, let's address some questions.

As Opsal said:
What's illegal, he said, is the university's practice of singling out types of religious speech for different treatment. The U.S. Supreme Court has said mandatory student fees must be awarded without regard to the viewpoint of the group.

Does this include all viewpoints? What if I started a group Students for Killing Puppies. If I applied for seg fees, wouldn't they have to give them to me? Basically, if you can't look at what the group does, WHAT BASIS DO YOU AWARD FEES ON!? Someone, I'm looking at you Smathers, please answer this for me.

First off, I disagree with Shabaz insisting that UW has a policy that singles out one religious group but supports others. JCC is not a religious organization — Jewish Cultural Collective. Come on. If they're talking about the funding given to MSA, its still different. They're an RSO, but more classified as an interest group than a service group. They get travel grants, not money for religious services. Now, if they started asking for money for religious ceremonies or objects, you might see the same reaction. But since they're not, we can't treat it as such.

As to Erik's question: Well, first off, that's an obvious extreme example. I'm not sure that would work. Let's try instead... Students for White Supremacy. That group, if it provided a demonstrated service to students (say, providing counseling and discussion for white students and their racist views) and was one of the only of its service on campus, it could conceivably receive funding. of course, it would most likely be rejected because of personal decisions. But if VPN was carried out correctly and they met the eligibility requirements, it is possible it would eventually go to budget deliberations. Still, I don't see how that would ever get to a stage like that. Yet, less extreme examples might be able to reach these stages.

Basically, Erik, to meet funding eligibility requirements you have to demonstrate:
-A service that is not replicated by any other group on campus (which is why they funded one Tenant resource and not the other)
-Have to provide some sort of proof that they provide a service to students of an education nature, including events, leadership capabilities and an additional significant component.

I only wish I could have interviewed Alex Gallagher a day later than we did.

Thankfully, there was one thing he said that while enlightening at the time, but raises new questions in my mind. In the middle of our interview, I asked him what criteria distinguished a group from segregated fee eligibility or denial. While there was always this vague talk of "an additional significant component," he offered a much better explanation. JCC, RCF, POLYGON and others were denied funding because they represent an interest group rather than a service group.

JCC? Sure, they provide events, leadership opportunities and a newsletter. Still, more an interest group than a service.
POLYGON? Sure they decide on some Engineering School decisions, provide leadership opportunities and networking events for engineering students. But their service to the entire student body? I challenge you to find it.

Ahh, but RCF is tricky. Someone commented on my piece in the Herald last semester that none of this matters because RCF still was denied eligibility. Yet, they were denied on the basis of not having that additional significant component. Now, RCF has always maintained that the service they provide to campus is multifaceted — programs (the occasional musical), events (take your pick), leadership opportunities (RCF Board or otherwise) but then religious services, religious discussion and pastoral care (Tim Kruse remarked last year about a few students who consistently came to talk through their emotional problems with the staff on hand.)

If the service aspect requires an additional significant component, one could argue that the lawsuit by UW has stripped RCF of the ability to provide that component. If RCF-UW was simply a gathering of Catholics, that'd be one thing. But if part of their mission is to actively recruit and provide a religious or spiritual service to campus and that has been immediately discounted by UW policy, it forces them into that interest group corner.

The question is, since the judge has ordered and injunction to UW's prohibitive policy, will RCF file some sort of SJ case demanding a review of their budget for eligibility?

We shall see. And we'll certainly have video coverage of this once everything gets edited and the interviews are completed. Expect the first one by the end of the week.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Dane County Board Race: Oh, it's on now.

(x-posted at Muckrakers)

So, as you may have seen from the Critical Badger, two students have filed to run for the open seat left by Ashok Kumar: Wyndham Manning and Conor O'Hagan. So what can we expect?

Conor O'Hagan, as was noted, is an active member of ASM. Suchita spoke quite highly of him, said that's he been a very involved member of ASM. He currently serves on the Morgridge Center Committee, Dean of Students Advisory Board, Student Organization Committee...the list goes on and on. And he's only a freshman? I'm trying to get some more information on him and have sent him something asking for a little more background, reasoning, etc.

Wyndham Manning, however, I do know him. Wyndham was the WUD Music Director last year, one of the prime organizers behind Madison Pop Fest and all-around mover and shaker in Madison's music scene. I've known him to be very opinionated about...well, everything. but didn't know he was interested in politics.

Of course, according to him, he really isn't. And that's part of his plan, according to an email he just sent:
I don't feel it necessary to have more of the "campus elite" (as you guys call them) stepping in line to take these offices, I want regular people to take control, the people who are passionate about the community, not the office. That's sort of how I envisioned Madison when I came here: a forward thinking progressive city run by very passionate people and that's what I want to try to add to. So returning to the original conception for running, I wanted to do it so that I could learn more indepth about how the city operates, how elections work and how I can turn my griping into solutions.

So, a political outsider, eh? Thinks he is just going to walk into the election and find his bearing on a County Board? Easy to be skeptical since he isn't an active political operative. However, considering how he's been pretty vocal about how Madison could be run with more efficiency (although that isn't just the county), it might be best that way. Ashok Kumar may have alienated people given his position in SLAC, but Wyndham could actually attract a more diverse student body if he targets them right. But then again, there is always the possibility of a different sort of elitism to surface along the way. (music snobs, anyone? I know I am.)

However, something that did sound interesting is that he had some plans to run an alternative campaign of guerilla political campaigning - a way of reaching students on this campus without being stiff and pointing out the problems of this city. A different approach would be useful at this point. The usual protests don't seem to garner nearly as much support as they did in the old days and one thing seems to be missing from this city: political energy. If Wyndham can bring it (and his partnership with Jesse Russell could help), he could do a lot of good for Dane County.

But, that's yet to be seen. When it comes time to vote, we'll need to see specific positions and initiatives. Wyndham doesn't seem to have any specifics yet. Certainly, he just got into it, but I'll keep prodding him. Once I get some word from Conor, I'll provide another post.