Posts Tagged ‘Biddy Martin’

Biddy fires back at Wyndham…poorly

February 10, 2010

A lot more to unpack here, but I thought I would get this out before the campus press did (and they should).

This is the part of the letter Martin sent back to the County Board of Supervisors that simply falls flat on its face.

She adds that Eric Sandgren, who oversees the university’s animal research enterprise, “informed meeting attendees that the campus considers the ethics of animal research on a case by case basis, just as the ethics of research involving humans is addressed case by case.”

The problem is that Biddy made the mistake of quoting the guy who should actually know whats going on here, but who continues to present completely incoherent philosophical views (this is not to say that there aren’t coherent views on his side). Human research involves willing participants, primate research does not. This “case by case” analogy is completely fallacious.

Ignoring that for a second, though, the real issue should be whether the case by case evaluations undertaken by this committee and based on this philosophy Sandgren espouses are turning out ethical results. The answer is, all too often, a resounding no.

The goal here should be stricter requirements on this mystical “utility” calculation used to determine if a given experiment is ethical or not. Most students and Madison residents would get behind this if some of the past abuses of the process became mainstream, which makes it a realistic and achievable goal (and perhaps deserving of an oversight committee itself).

Wyndham Manning speaks…about animal ethics?

February 9, 2010

Bizarre.

Twenty Dane County supervisors sent a letter to UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin on Friday questioning the university’s process for deciding whether monkey experimentation is ethical.

In the letter, the supervisors asked whether that committee, the All-Campus Animal Care and Use Committee, is the right body to look into ethical questions.

The first signature on the letter was from none other than our tireless student advocate Wyndham Manning.

Ignoring Manning’s ineptitude, which I am very surprised Johnson would want anything to do with via an endorsement, what does the County Board think is going to happen? Biddy Martin is going to go to this debate of semi-qualified people, form a steadfast conclusion on one of the trickiest area of applied ethics, and end all primate research on campus, costing the University tens of millions of dollars?

Time for a new strategy guys.

Pressure mounts against UW “closed meetings”

February 2, 2010

A recent article in the Badger Herald questioned the legality of a “closed” meeting of the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates Oversight Committee. Besides being a long-time champion of free speech and open government, the Herald had a specific dog in this fight –– it was a Herald reporter who was shown the door by university officials.

What’s next? Dare I say lawsuit?

A potential legal battle would concentrate on one point: Is the committee a governmental body? According to the university, it is not because it is “purely advisory.” However, according to the Attorney General’s office, governmental bodies are defined by how they are created, not what they do. And then there’s this:

Minutes from the May 7, 2008 Board of Regents meeting indicate the committee’s formation may have been formal, however. The minutes describe their approval of the tuition increase and then say a Madison Initiative Oversight Board will review the tuition differential annually.

In response to questions on the matter, UW spokesman John Lucas sent me the following:

In the spirit of transparency in which MIU was created, tomorrow’s meeting (9 a.m. in 260 Bascom) and all other meetings will be noticed and open.

There is some confusion that still exists about whether the Regents meeting minutes you mention references a separate committee that still needs to be formed in order to make an accountability report to the Regents.

But that point is really technical and moot– the MIU oversight committee will be considered to be a governmental body for the purposes of the open meetings law and open to all.

Does that mean UW admits fault? Or does it mean that it is simply doing students “a favor”?

SLAC to give Biddy Martin workers rights “report card”

December 11, 2009

The Student Labor Action Coalition will be giving Biddy Martin a “final exam” in workers rights and then grading it and presenting the chancellor a giant “report card” based on her performance, according to Jan Van Tol, member of the SLAC.

SLAC has also put the exam on its website.

At the moment I am awaiting a response from Van Tol on whether or not the chancellor has already agreed to take the “test.”

UW tuition hike approved by Regents

July 10, 2009

It’s official. Tuition will go up this year by $617 for UW-Madison students, and by $280 at other UW campuses. As the Herald explains, about $250 of that tuition increase comes from Biddy Martin’s “Madison Initiative for Undergraduates.” The plan imposes a hike of $250 on residents and $750 on out-of-staters. Students who come from families with incomes of less than $80,000 would be exempt.

UW System President Kevin Reilly said that he wants to keep tuition increases “modest and predictable.” They key word is predictable. That means that people coming to UW should have a general idea of what they’re going to be asked to pay every year.

CFALSE

June 30, 2009

It is somewhat ironic that Kyle Szarzynski is the one to report on CFACT. Kyle is perhaps the only person on campus who gives CFACT a run for its money in the “craziness” department. But to Kyle’s credit, he can generally present his allegations articulately, even when he’s accusing namby-pamby Canadians of being white supremacists.

No organization was a bigger headache during my time at the Herald than CFACT. Day after day we’d receive some letter from a starry-eyed recent convert, lauding the org for teaching them a lot of cool new stuff,  “serving the public,” and best of all, “working for the environment.” The vague slogans and unspecific goals were oddly reminiscent of the Church of  Scientology’s video on “human rights.” Unfortunately, because we were often short on content, we were forced on several occassions to run their propaganda. Who were we to discriminate? When we weren’t printing crack-inspired conspiracy theories by the head of Students for McCain we were running articles in favor of abolishing all drunk-driving laws.

Plus, despite the creepy cult vibes, the org definitely provided some good laughs. The best was when my co-editor Sam Clegg got a hold of a CFACT pamphlet alleging that Earth Day is actually a secret celebration of communism.

Wisconsin’s own Gaylord Nelson was compared to Nikita Khrushchev for deciding to place Earth Day on April 22, which is, coincidentally, Lenin’s birthday. Or as CFACT so eloquently implied in its pamphlet, Nelson consciously did this to insidiously work communism into the environmental discourse.

All that time, however, I had no idea that it was actually a segregated-fee funded organization. That Wisconsin, the home of Joe McCarthy, would be duped once again into funding such tactless liars, is truly unfortunate. Thankfully the Student Services Finance Committee ruled correctly last year by denying the group funding. Unfortunately it only did so because of a couple technicalities. CFACT failed to turn in some papers on time. Boring. SSFC should have gone farther and denounced the group for advancing an ideological agenda, rather than pushing one that “benefits all students,” which is the standard a group must satisfy to receive seg-fee funds.

Now CFACT is getting ready to sue the university unless its funding is restored. It enlisted the help of a few clueless blowhards at the State Capitol as well.

A conservative college group is threatening to sue the University of Wisconsin-Madison, claiming the school wiped out its funding as retaliation against its stance on global warming and other issues.

State Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, was one of nine state legislators to ask the chancellor to reconsider.

“Without CFACT on campus, discussions about environmental and social issues will be completely one-sided,” they wrote in May. “The diversity that CFACT adds to these issues is invaluable to the UW campus and should be maintained.”

“We have a huge problem in society,” he said. “Too many of our universities hate any diversity of viewpoint other than that of the hard left. It’s appalling.”

Appalling that no other environmental group integrates the issue of leninism with earth day. I am simply not smart enough to respond to that one.