College News

ASM divestment legislation to become financial transparency subcommittee

Rep. Diego Villegas walked out of a Student Council meeting when the Financial Transparency and Ethics Subcommittee proposal was brought to a vote during Passover.

Image By: Jon Yoon

Before the 23rd session of the Associated Student of Madison draws to a close this month, representatives seek to change bylaws by adding a subcommittee on financial transparency and ethics.

Earlier this month representatives proposed legislation calling for the university and its independent foundation to divest from companies “complicit” in human rights violations, including companies associated with Israel.

The legislation drew immense backlash from the Jewish community on campus and over 200 students attended an ASM meeting in opposition. Following this, the authors went back to the drawing board to create a new proposal: the “Financial Transparency and Ethics Subcommittee.”

At a Student Council meeting Wednesday, Rep. Glenn Watters introduced the group and said students should have access to financial records and a shared governance, grassroots structure in place to ensure accountability. However this proposal for a subcommittee, unlike the legislation, does not call upon any group for action or mention Israel. 

“We can’t really obligate UW foundation to have a shared governance committee, but we can in our capacity as ASM students have something within our own structure committed to working with UW’s foundation … something that's more institutionalized,” said Shared Governance Chair Omer Arian, an author of the original divest legislation.

However, Wednesday evening was also Passover, and many of the Jewish representatives who opposed the original legislation were absent in religious observance. When the proposal was brought to a vote, several members of council strongly opposed citing the inappropriate timing during the holiday.

“This seems really vicious considering this legislation is ... of great importance to members of the Jewish community, and they are not here because they are observing a holiday for themselves,” said Rep. Diego Villegas. “And I am just disgusted by that action.”

Villegas immediately got up and left the meeting, and was soon followed by three other representatives in a failed attempt to break quorum and prevent a vote on the legislation.

The bylaws change passed the first round of voting and will be voted on again in the next Student Council meeting—the last of the semester. 

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