Factual error of the day
Not true. Seering never has been an elected ASM rep despite his active involvement in ASM issues. Manes also hasn’t been on ASM since he did not win re-election last year. Read the newspaper, Anonymous.
One year later, a reasoned take on flexibility
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has a right-on-the-money editorial about the ongoing debate about flexibilities for the UW System almost one year after the height of the New Badger Partnership debate.
We’re about to re-enter this entire debate on Wednesday. I think the JS editorial misses one important nuance of the political implications of the renewal.
In the past, Gov. Scott Walker has supported such reform; we urge him and the Department of Administration to do so now.
I doubt this will happen. Why would Walker rehash a year-old political third rail that was a rare point of division within his own party — especially when he’s in the midst of possible scandal and a recall election?
Yes, the flexibility needs to happen, but it’s highly unlikely it will happen anytime soon. If Walker wins the recall, he’ll have the political capital to coax Rep. Steve Nass to embrace proposed changes to the System. The changes will need to differ from the 2011 proposals, too. If a Democrat (still crossing my fingers for a Peter Barca candidacy) wins, the debate over NBP-esque reform might change from the “make UW run like a business” conversation we’ve been having to a campaign to give higher education the power it deserves.
The new ASM constitution and The Badger Herald
At the beginning of this academic year, I was a vocal minority on The Badger Herald’s Editorial Board because of my defense of this year’s session. I thought, and still think, that Allie Gardner’s government had not been given enough of a chance to succeed early in their tenure. This was mostly the result of sharp and automatic criticisms from outgoing ASM leaders or trolls on the Herald, Cardinal, and North Park Street comment forums. My first column, which seems like it was written ages ago, focused on many of these automatic critiques and tacitly pledged to give Gardner & Co. a chance. So I did.
Since the year began, I’ve been disappointed not necessarily by this year’s leadership but instead by ASM’s institutional failure to handle disagreement and partisanship. This has been a recurring theme throughout my time at UW, even under the influence of the ideological opposites of the current governing ASM slate. I do not, and never have, supported this kind of dialogue about ASM, but I support the new constitution largely because I believe it’s the beginning of a path not just to a more effective government, but also a less controversial one.
With all of that said, I just want to break down a few questions about the process we plan to use and what got The Badger Herald, and thus me personally, interested in the constitution.
How the Herald got involved
The Herald (with the Cardinal following close behind) began its involvement in the ACC near the height of the Beth Huang/Niko Magallon service hours controversy. After receiving a tip to the board that a constitution was in the works, we decided to jump on board and invite the Cardinal to join us, similar to earlier initiatives past boards have accomplished, such as the successful boycott of the Nitty Gritty in 2009.
Both boards sent two representatives to the drafting committee to represent the voice of the board. Some members, me included, dissented and disagreed with some of the processes and language included in the current document. The committee wrapped up changes to the document near the beginning of final exams after about (this is my estimate) 8 weeks of deliberation. Of course, this probably will not be the final document, since we’re still seeking final input from interested parties.
My thoughts on the matter
I have few reservations about the constitution or the board’s involvement in the campaign to adopt it. I was one of the folks who supported releasing the document earlier for a more open revision process, but I was overruled. Such is life, I guess.
Some people have suggested to me that this constitution is, essentially, a carbon copy of the 2009 proposal that has now become infamous in ASM circles for its fiery tailspin to failure. This is not accurate for these reasons:
- The constitution as it stands today significantly curbs the power of the president compared to the 2009 version. We can thank the (thankful) lack of veto power for this.
- The creation of an Appropriations Branch allows the SUFAC to remain largely independent of the politicking that has distracted SSFC for the last couple of years. SSFC and its peer committees are the most important and least-political of all ASM bodies, and their separation from much of the politics that makes it to the front page of the Herald (aka Student Council) is crucial.
- With this document, we are trying to improve on the mistakes of the last constitutional process and be more open to changes, criticism and revisions. I hope these efforts are successful.
- Kurt Gosselin & Co. are not involved in this process. I don’t know Kurt personally, and from what I understand he’s a nice fellow, but that doesn’t stop me from disagreeing with his tactics or politics. I would consider any sort of involvement from Gosselin or the last constitutional committee aside from attendance at listening sessions counterproductive to our cause. It would be enough for me to reevaluate my support.
Also, we’ve heard some questions about the ethics of the Herald and Cardinal being involved in this process. Every editorial the Herald has published for as long as I can remember contains an important disclaimer: “Editorial Board opinions are crafted independently of news coverage.” Both papers have made it clear that what we do in the conference is completely separate from what happens in the newsroom.
The Herald has been considered an experiment since its founding more than 40 years ago. I’ve suggested before that ASM take a similar approach, and some on ‘the campus left’ (I hate that term) applauded me for it.
All of us on the editorial board enter our meetings keeping this in mind, and in some cases — such as this one — it motivates us to step out of our journalistic comfort zone and test what a student newspaper can actually do. This might sound too idealistic, but people who work at the Herald actually forge deep connections with this idea and try to practice it as faithfully as possible.
I don’t think this project is much different than a larger and mostly effective venture I was involved in during my internship at WHYY in Philadelphia. Not long before I returned to Madison, I (very minimally) helped WHYY with their collaboration with Azavea, a well-known mapping firm, to help Philadelphians draw their own City Council districts. I was enthusiastic about the project because it was separate from news coverage, but I also was proud to be part of something that fulfilled some of my most idealistic beliefs about journalism’s civic power. The venture seemed to strike a chord with a council known nationwide for gerrymandering.
Those are my personal reasons for endorsing the venture.
But remember: Part of testing our skill as journalists involves maintaining the highest level of ethics possible. Our news department has nothing to do with this, and if the ACC screws up, it will be news. When we go into editing mode, we remain objective and considerate of any opposition.
If you have further questions about the process, I’d be happy to answer them. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to @ryan_rainey.
Back for now
After an unplanned hiatus because of a variety of Herald-related commitments, I’ve decided to bring the MadWonk Tumblr back for the time being. In the future, you can expect to see MadWonk rolled into badgerherald.com with new contributors as part of our in-house blogging platform, but for now it will be just me maintaining this Tumblr.
I’ve decided to change the direction a little bit to focus on or expand on things I cannot cover in a 700-to-800 word weekly column. Also expect to see more short posts with brief analysis.
If you’re reading this, thanks! I hopefully won’t flake out this time. And no, this isn’t a New Year’s Resolution. (Instead, that’s the archetypical losing 20 pounds.)
Earth to GOP: Don’t ruin Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is, without question, the only Republican worth voting for in the next presidential election. He’s not a wingnut like Rick Perry, not weak-appearing like John Huntsman, not reactionary like Michele Bachmann and not an quasi-oligarch like Mitt Romney.
Christie is blunt. He’s middle class. He has young kids, just like President Obama. He cares about his state, not his agenda. Unlike Scott Walker, to whom Christie is often compared, Christie doesn’t sugarcoat what he’s doing to his state or why he’s doing it.
I hate admitting that I think these things considering I rarely agree with anything Christie says. But compared to the Republicans’ current candidates, Christie is the only candidate I’d be comfortable with as a leader. Lack of leadership has, until recently, become a recurring theme in the Obama presidency, and I’m actually convinced that even if Christie implemented policies I disagreed with, he’d still find some way to make me think it’s not as bad as my liberal friends would make me believe.
Just imagine a Christie-Obama debate. The affair would be dramatic, thoughtful and therapeutic…as long as Christie doesn’t change.
But as we’ve seen in the last several months, Christie will likely feel heavy pressure to run to the extreme right along with his fellow candidates. If that happens, consider this post null-and-void.
Why I feel sorry for ASM and Beth Huang
Unsurprisingly, the Associated Students of Madison have already found themselves in the closest equivalents to scandal that’s possible in student government. But despite the furor over the Multicultural Student Coalition’s huge budget, I’m more worried about the implications of Vice Chair Beth Huang’s removal from Student Council.
Huang will likely appeal SJ’s decision, as she should. But I’m worried about the implications this could have so early in ASM’s session.
Say what you will about the current ASM leadership, but Huang is arguably the most positively vocal and student-oriented member of this ASM session. While many other ASM leaders live in the SAC, Huang has been active in communicating ASM’s positions and initiatives to students, something other current and former student government leaders haven’t executed as deftly.
But I’m most worried about this statement from Kurt Gosselin, one of the founding bloggers on popular ASM blog North Park Street:
This is a scandal of near-epic proportion for ASM! […] The new ASM which claimed to be transparent and fighting for students seems to be imploding in upon itself.
This was, from what I can tell, an innocent procedural mistake Huang made. That shouldn’t mean she should get off the hook — MCSC made an innocent procedural mistake, too, and they need to pay the price for that.
But I don’t think this has anything to do with transparency; instead, it’s a matter of poor organization on Huang’s part and poor notification on SJ’s part. How was Huang supposed to know that the extra hours she put in for the Textbook Swap and Recruitment Drive wouldn’t be enough?
SJ’s ruling doesn’t change Huang’s respectable advocacy for students, and to call this a “scandal of near-epic proportion” simply sensationalizes an already-unfortunate circumstance.
Sometimes I wish it were easier to sit down, reflect on incidents like this one and realize something important: we’re just students. It’s upsetting to see people who work together talk about each other like this. Call me an idealist, but that’s not how we should operate.
CEO and the War Against Minorities
I’ve never heard of the Center for Equal Opportunity before tonight. I’m a little taken aback they would use such a misleading term to promote such an unequal agenda. But with all of the tweets and Facebook posts I’ve seen, this quote is the most disturbing higher education-related statement I’ve seen in my time at UW.
The latest census figures have dramatically underscored that America is increasingly multiethnic and multiracial. In such country, is simply untenable for our institutions—including public universities—to engage in politically correct but divisive and unfair discrimination.
I’m constantly amazed by how buzzwords like “politically correct” and “divisive” can still hold so much water after a decade where so much has been done to discredit the critics of affirmative action.
But as many people have mentioned, Madison isn’t like Ann Arbor or even Austin. Students here have rekindled their love for activism, and this is a more worthy cause for student activism than any other, possibly even more important than the budget repair bill. I won’t be surprised if UW-Madison is the location of the endgame between those supporting and opposing increased diversity efforts on public university campuses.
The good guys will win this one.
Growing up with 9-11
Many news outlets, some of them out of touch with young people, will try to tell you college students barely remember September 11, that the event was a relatively inconsequential moment in our lives that the media must recreate for us in some sort of sensory experience every year. These people are full of shit.
Even the youngest college students were in third grade when September 11 happened, which I remember being the age at which I began to understand the significance of world events. When I was in third grade, people all across the world were paranoid about the Y2K bug. When clocks hit midnight in Sydney to mark the beginning of the 21st Century, a reporter went to an ATM to make a cash withdrawal. The machine worked, and I then understood that the world wasn’t ending.
Young college students do not, and will never, need to be reminded of what happened on 9-11, we remember it perfectly well. And unlike the adults in our life who sometimes flirt with nostalgia for the feelings of post-9-11 national unity, we never really want to return to the way we felt as terrified children living in seemingly terrifying world.
Some kids like me, who grew up thousands of miles away from New York or Washington, say they’re members of the “9-11 generation.” I prefer avoiding that moniker. For my entire childhood, 9-11 felt like a nagging presence in my life, something I grew up hating and wishing had never happened. It wasn’t a generation-defining moment, but instead, at least for my peers and me, it was a force we constantly tried to eliminate from our lives.
“If you’re afraid, then the terrorists win,” was an extremely difficult concept for a 10-year-old to buy into at the time. Boarding an airplane after 9-11 seemed like a death sentence to me, and I did it more than I would’ve liked when I was younger. The sound of construction in a major city was enough to make my heart stop and want to turn around and go back. But there was nothing I could do, and eventually my paranoia folded into anger. As a middle schooler, I naïvely hated Democrats because I legitimately believed the country would fall to its knees if John Kerry were president.
Of course, the world isn’t like that anymore. But despite the polarized political climate we live in, and in light of all the lost jobs and the lost bargaining rights and lost opportunity, I’d still rather live as a young child in this decade than deal with the genuine terror that tainted my generation’s childhood.
I never want my kids to have to grow up with anything like 9-11 tarnishing the memories of their childhoods. I’ll never be nostalgic for the years between 2001 and 2004. Neither will anyone else who grew up in fear after 9-11.
[UPDATE 9-12-11 4:05 p.m.] This piece was not a reaction to today’s Daily Cardinal feature about the “9-11 Generation.” I didn’t realize they would title their piece thus. But I still don’t like the term.
The worst tweet ever written
Those two senators will go back to their districts and go back to their affluent jobs. The 40 percent of WEAC workers will likely be out of work for several months, if not a year or more, because of the complete disregard for real employment and quality education Wisconsin’s Republican Party has shown.
Families depending on WEAC for income will now likely have to face selling their homes and giving their children a less-promising childhood because of people who think like this. If all Republicans in Wisconsin consider the WEAC layoffs a victory (ASM Rep and College Republicans big-whig Johnny Koremenos re-tweeted this, so this has been endorsed by some form of GOP leadership), we have problems in our state that go beyond unemployment.
UPDATE 8-15-11 10:19:00 EST The original author of the tweet, @wicalvin, is
I don’t know how expensive the WEAC headquarters is worth. I think the money spent on the recalls was somewhat misguided but, since WEAC employees obviously endorsed the recalls, they probably don’t mind it.
But this goes beyond the “taxpayer” or any conservative or liberal talking point. If we’ve reached a point in our civil discourse where we will be dancing on the graves of a Wisconsinite’s paid, middle-class job, we have a lot to worry about.
My grandfather paid his bills and raised my mother working for a union in Maryland. My mother has worked as an educator for more than a decade and works hard to support my school-aged sister. My father has been failed by the private sector and has been unemployed for years.
I’m not a member of a union, I don’t really want to join a union, and I have no personal stake in the union crisis. But there’s one thing I know: I wouldn’t be living the life I’m living today, fulfilling my childhood dream of being a journalist at a top-tier university, if unions didn’t help bring me to the point I’m at today.
Millions of Americans and their children across the country feel this way, and to de-legitimize the sacrifices working families have made for their children as cause for celebration is a serious problem. This isn’t about the Koch Brothers or Scott Walker or “Fitzwalkerstan,” it’s about fixing a crucial hole in the way we think about political change.
For the record, I’d have some sympathy for
Planned Parenthood Pro-Life Wisconsin or NRA employees if they lost their jobs, regardless of how I feel about their organizations.
UPDATE 8-15-2011 10:45:00 EST
John Koremenos, the College Republicans chair mentioned earlier, has responded to this post. Some highlights, with my thoughts (mostly just left-wing talking points) in bold:
[…]I understand what I re-tweeted might be a little insensitive, but let me quickly run down a few thoughts that ran through my head when I read the article about the WEAC layoffs and re-tweeted @WICalvin…
1) WEAC and collective bargaining have been responsible for thousands of layoffs over the years. (Debatable and the central issue of this crisis)
2) WEAC has spent millions lobbying and trying to elect Democratic politicians. Granted, it is their right to do so, but that’s money that could have been put towards staff salaries and benefits. (The same could be said about corporations that donate to Democrats and Republicans, but point taken, unions do—or did—have power in Democratic politics)
3) WEAC’s president, Mary Bell makes a great salary; somewhere in the ballpark of $200,000. Again, another possible source for saving staff members from layoffs.
4) Layoffs are a fact of life, something my family has experienced in recent years too. These individuals can enter the tough job market and try to find new work, like many Americans have been forced to do over the past few years.
5) WEAC has forced teachers to pay union dues, my mother, a former kindergarten assistant, included. This union did not represent my mother’s point of view and my mother had thousands of dollars over the years forcefully taken from her and put towards a cause she did not believe in. It is unfortunate that the lack of union membership renewals due to changes in collective bargaining are responsible for these job losses, but it is this liberation that is the cause of celebration for thousands of teachers across the state. (I don’t know if thousands of teachers really feel this way.)
6) WEAC’s insurance company cheated Wisconsin taxpayers out of millions of dollars over the years so it’s hard for me to have much compassion for such a dishonest group of individuals with a clear and overt bias.
7) If the union is so great and its members feel so strongly about it then why haven’t they all renewed their memberships? The only reason these folks are losing their jobs is because of individual choice of teachers, not because of the Governor, Republicans, or any legislator or piece of legislation. Certainly Act 10 enabled the teachers, but I believe if the union had been doing its job for all those years they wouldn’t be facing staff layoffs and low numbers of renewals.
[…] I try not to take myself or my hobby too seriously and at the end of the day my politics are not placed above my humanity. (This is the kind of attitude more Republicans and Democrats need to have.)
My biggest hope: that Koremenos doesn’t endorse the anti-teacher rhetoric his party has used throughout this crisis. That’s what fuels people like @wicalvin to spew that kind of incendiary bullshit.