I just talked to Kurt Gosselin, one of the leaders of a campaign to get a landlord rating site for student tenants. After it was approve last Spring, the project is still not off the ground, but Gosselin hopes that will change after he and Danny Spirn meet with officials from the UW legal department, ASM financial staff and the Office of the Dean of Students a week from today.
When the project was approved by the Student Council last March, $5000 was budgeted to pay the contractor who would build the site. The contract was won by Hardin Design and Development, whose Vice President, Scott Resnick, assured me that $5000 is a bargain for a top-notch website.
When I asked Gosselin why it had taken so long, he said that while he had been surprised by the amount of red tape in the site’s way, there were many legitimate concerns that need to be addressed before the site goes up. UW is concerned about liability –– could a landlord who is slandered on the site sue ASM or the university for libel? Moreover, talk of putting ads on the site generated another legal discussion which rather bluntly concluded that, according to Segregated Fee by-laws, no site funded by student segregated fees can generate revenue.
However, the problem that remains to be resolved is the site’s finances. The money budgeted for the project came from the previous ASM session. The money was not re-newed this year, which, according to Gosselin, means ASM will have to find money by scraping off unused funds from other line items or it will have to apply for “additional budget authority” from the university. In such a case, the university would OK additional spending with the recognition that not all money in the ASM budget will be spent; that the project will not take student government into debt.
Gosselin believes the Feb. 12 meeting will be the tipping point for the project’s success. By getting all relevant actors in one room, Gosselin thinks much of the confusion over rules and regulations will be sorted out. However, the question I would ask is, if it’s taken so long, simple confusion and red tape may not be the only issues. Have we ruled out possible resistance or opposition to the plan? It could prove to be a controversial project –– there are definitely people who would like to see it disappear.