Posts Tagged ‘UW’

What happened at the ASM meeting?

March 4, 2010

I was going to comment on the lack of ASM news coming from the campus papers when I saw this buried at the bottom of the Herald news page: “Student Council fails to keep quorum.”

Neither of my go-to ASM blogs have updated on the matter.

An intern project for Academic Affairs was a major point of debate. The intern is working on a project to collaborate student organizations and students looking to volunteer called the Madison Community Academic Outreach project.

The intern project is a four-credit class, and the drop date for classes is March 15.

To vote ‘no’ on the intern project would effectively cancel the intern’s three weeks of work, Rep. Colin Ingram said.

What are the reasons the three guys walked out? Because other important people there, namely Jonah Zinn, the head of the Academic Affairs Committee, which is supposed to deal with intern projects.

To state the obvious: Why weren’t these projects approved before the start of the semester, or moreover, who is authorizing interns to do projects that may be cancelled half way through?

It seems like this is the week of legislative stalling tactics, at all levels of government. In D.C. we’ve got a senile hall of fame pitcher putting holds on unemployment benefits and COBRA health benefits. In the Sconz we’ve got Prosecutor Steve Nass not showing up to court because he’s worried Democrats will turn his trial of the most pathetic man in the state into a circus. Nothing at the city-level comes to mind immediately but go to Brenda Konkel’s site and I’m sure you’ll find something.

Campus Women’s Center update

March 1, 2010

Just at the Union when I passed the CWC. I saw a bunch of boxes and assumed the worst. I knew the SSFC had denied them funding, but was it really enough to send them packing?

Fortunately that was not the case, and as I talked to Swati Bhargava, the publications coordinator, I felt a little silly for making such an assumption. Nevertheless, Swati, who does not speak for the organization as a whole, explained why she thought the SSFC decision was incorrect.

“Right off the bat, they decided that services we provided to student parents was not a direct service. No other organization offers outreach to student parents.” She and I agreed –– services to student parents should be considered a service to the student body. Most students are not parents, but all of them (all jokes aside) have the capacity to become parents. It’s kind of a basic element of human nature. Just like illness. If we have services for sick students, we should have them for those who are pregnant or those who are parents.

Herald accepts ad from holocaust denier

February 25, 2010

And Smathers explains it:

This newspaper has made a principle of accepting any individual or group advertisement submitted. The only cases in which we would reject an advertisement are if it exhibits threats toward any person or group or is of a libelous nature. This advertisement, while certainly fueled by veiled anti-Semitism, does not rise to the level of threats and therefore does not merit rejection.

The basis of these decisions does not rest on a desire to collect money for these advertisements, but on the editorial principle that no opinions or assertions can be so offensive that we cannot bring ourselves to hear them. If we run from manifestly vitriolic, destructive and false arguments when they present themselves, they will continue to roam and perhaps proliferate.

We attend a research university of nearly unparalleled intellectual might. As such, we have attracted the most intelligent minds of our country into one intellectual community dedicated to the perpetual search for the truth. This was our mission in 1894 when the UW System Board of Regents defended the “fearless sifting and winnowing” for truth, and it serves a guiding social principle for this campus to this day.

It is that mission that should guide us in this instance. It is patently obvious to the most rational individual that there is no truth to Bradley’s grand project. Any student of this university who views the page (or, perhaps even the link) would recognize his mission as a wholesale rejection of truth and, in turn, dismiss it.

Removing this advertisement would undercut and debase that belief in rational evaluation. The UW community has every ability to confront these lies and reject them on their face. To remove this advertisement would assume our community lacks the intellectual integrity to properly define this movement as an affront to objective truths. The absolute incompetence with which Smith defends his views can only be fully illuminated if this campus is faced to confront those views in their rawest form.

In many other western nations, holocaust denial is a crime. Here, saying “shit” on the radio is a crime. Both are unacceptable restrictions of individual liberty and I don’t believe that either does much to reduce the ugliness that its suppose to combat.

Here is a video of Noam Chomsky defending the right of French “historian” Robert Faurisson to deny the holocaust. The European press was incredulous, and quite a few American conservatives, including my former colleague Ryan Masse, saw it as evidence of anti-Semitism. That’s ludicrous. Even the crazy, deranged lunatics, from the KKK to the people who stand in front of Humanities and tell us we’re going to hell, have the right to free speech.

But that still doesn’t mean the paper had to accept the ad. To have refused it would not have been to abandon the principle of the right of free speech in society. No, the law shouldn’t outlaw hate speech, but the media is not obligated to publish it either. If the Herald is willing to reluctantly accept $75 for the ad maybe it should take the next step and court hate organizations for ads. Why not? It’s the principle right?

The hate speech laws in Europe are wrong. But some of the informal measures politicians and the media take to isolate the far right are worthy of consideration. When far right members of parliament get up to speak, all other members leave the chamber. Candidates refuse to debate with far right opponents. Quarantine.

Student government comedy

February 23, 2010

Jason Smathers points out some particularly comical mess-ups by the Student Activity Governing Board:

The Student Activity Center Governing Board, in an attempt to remain impartial, created a system that was potentially more biased than before. I’m still trying to figure out the myriad of issues at this meeting and for that reason have filed an open records request for the recordings. I’ll let you know what comes up. But the straight and narrow of this seems to be this: They picked questions they knew the answers to after a previous series of questions were thrown out because of a View Point Neutrality violation. There are two main problems with doing it that way:

1) If you are picking questions based on answers you’ve already received, you can pick the questions based on which groups answered them best. Which, would violate VPN. Of course, Nancy Lynch is there, so that’s unlikely. Still a problem.

2) If all decisions are based on how well each group answered the three questions, it essentially comes down to subjective rankings, which, as Templeton mentioned, means your decisions can hide bias behind the questions. Considering the fact that members we apparently just motioning to move the rankings around with no apparent reasoning, that’s probably an awful idea.

Why the Herald should change its comment policy

February 10, 2010

I wouldn’t dare be the first to cast a stone at the Badger Herald. Luckily, Dean of Students Lauri Berquam’s letter to the editor today gave me a much-welcomed opportunity to pile on my former employer for allowing its comments section to be over-run by hate-mongers, buffoons and frat brothers.

The Herald has always prided itself as a promoter of free speech. At least partly because it started out as a neo-fascist conservative paper on a liberal campus, the Herald has an appreciation for all opinions, no matter how ridiculous or outside of the mainstream. At least that’s the narrative the current team likes to promote. Remember, the Herald, like the Cardinal, is a college paper and is therefore never run by the same people for more than a year or two. It’s very hard to maintain “traditions,” for more than a few years. But I digress.

When I was content editor of the editorial page we pretty much let anything fly. There may have been a few really nasty comments that I didn’t approve, but the general idea was that all comments had value, no matter how absurd or off-topic they were. That is currently the policy I have for this blog. I have never deleted a comment except in a couple rare instances in which people asked me to delete their own comments.

But I think the Herald should re-think its policy. Just as the paper shouldn’t accept bad writers, it shouldn’t accept bad commenters. Bad commenters actually prevent real dialogue. The comment section so frequently degenerates into personal attacks and nonsense that it makes writing a meaningful criticism of an article seem pathetically beside the point. The AEPi article comment section was not only full of absurd ad hominem attacks from both sides, it was flooded with comments from the same two or three IP addresses! This happens all the time on articles about a campus group –– group members manipulate the comment policy to make it appear as if they have boat-loads of support.

The opinion page and the comment section should be oriented towards people who are actually interested in reading the points the writers make and responding to them. Anonymous comments, just like anonymous sources, can be a great asset to newspapers. Our generation has recognized this and it will take a while for the mainstream media to catch up. However, this does not preclude editors from using common-sense discretion, just as they do with letters to the editor and other published work.

If I were in charge, I would put a couple comment czars in charge of moderating the comments. Maybe some copy editors or other people who have less of an interest in suppressing criticism of an article. The policy would be extremely liberal –– any comment that displays a sincere interest in communicating a relevant point would be approved. No worries about grammar, style etc. Commenters would be allowed to criticize writers and the paper, and they would be allowed to challenge the motives and intellectual honesty of the writer. But any far-fetched allegations would have to be verified.

There’s my two cents.

What you need to know about tenant politics

February 9, 2010

Erik Paulson, who “can’t take it [my poor understanding of ASM] anymore,” has an enormous post up on the politics behind the Student Tenant Union, its successor, the Student Tenant Resource Center. This relates to recent discussion we’ve had about the Madison Property Rating Website.

The Madison Property Rating Website, ie the Tenant Rating Website, ie the Landlord Rating website, is an independent project of the separate from the STU/STRC. Originally proposed by Eli Judge, (see 2:00 into the video) ASM ultimately took the plunge and allocated funding for its creation in the 2008-2009 school year (I think about $8000) and put in about $2300 to run it in the 2009-2010 (July 1 to June 30th, 2010) school year. For the 2010-2011 budget that ASM is currently discussing, the operational money remains about $2300. Obviously, the isn’t up and running yet, but hopefully the final understandings can be reached in the University soon and ASM can actually spend the money, and the site could be up and running late this spring. Ideally, there’d be a good advertising push by the MPR Oversight Board, and people would start actually rating Landlords, so the website is useful in the Fall of 2010, when potential renters will start to actually need it.

What’s hard for me to understand is where the $2300 figure came from. ASM approved $5000 to fund the project –– but that was last session, and for the project to regain the money it would have to be re-approved. What am I missing? Erik?

Update on landlord rating site

February 5, 2010

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.

A landlord rating site soon?

February 4, 2010

A coalition of student leaders, including former Ald. Eli Judge, Ald. Bryon Eagon and blogger Danny Spirn are trying to make good on their mission to provide a site which allows student tenants to rate landlords in the area – much in the style of ratemyprofessor or similar rating websites. ASM approved the site as well as its $5,000 price tag last March, however, there still remain bureaucratic obstacles within the university system which have prevented the site from materializing.

In fact, a similar project undertaken by the Tenant Resource Center was allocated $50,000,  showed no visible signs of progress, and was finally effectively killed when SSFC voted to zero-fund its budget on Monday.

The group is scheduled to meet with UW administration officials on Feb. 12 to work out details and hopefully receive the necessary funding for the site.

MSA president speaks against Ayaan Hirsi Ali

February 1, 2010

Reid Tice, director of the distinguished lecture series, sent me the following video by Rashid Dar, president of the Muslim Student Association, in which Dar speaks against anti-Islam speaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali coming to campus. In case you don’t know, Ali is speaking tomorrow night at the Union. It should be very interesting.

It’s hard to not sympathize with Dar, who confronts prejudice and ignorance on a regular basis as an American Muslim. In the video, he talks about how Muslim students go through this process every year, usually thanks to the College Republicans, who, under the leadership of Sara Mikolajczak, made it their tradition to recognize “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.” Dar says that he thought, “due to changes in the Republican leadership,” he would be the lucky one who wouldn’t have to face implied accusations of conspiracy to commit murder, terrorism and general armageddon.

But he doesn’t explain what exactly is so hateful about Ali. She represents a very different brand than Horowitz and Spencer. From my very limited understanding of her works, she does not urge attacks on religion, she pushes for liberation from it. Any thoughts?

ASM business tomorrow

January 26, 2010

Tyler Junger, chair of the Associated Students of Madison, was kind enough to provide me with an agenda for tomorrow’s meeting.


New Business

Support for Haiti Day of Action, 16-0127-01

Press Office Assistant Director, 16-0127-02

Press Office Director, 16-0127-03

Press Office Webmaster, 16-0127-04

MIU Budget Transfer, 16-0127-05

I haven’t heard news yet of any more expulsions or impeachments, but ever since the Student Council put I wouldn’t be surprised if the new attendance requirements make removals a standard practice of ASM meetings.