New ASM Student Council Chair Morrison looks to the year ahead after tumultuous spring
Morrison said she is excited to lead the body's 24th session. Here, she is pictured on the night of ASM's election.Image By: Jon Yoon
UW-Madison’s student government, the Associated Students of Madison, made national headlines last year. From a resolution that would ensure free tuition for black students, to controversial divestment legislation, ASM, administration, state legislators and the campus community were often at odds with one another.
Incoming ASM Student Council Chair Katrina Morrison hopes this won’t be the case when the 24th session of Student Council meets this fall.
Previously SAC Governing Board Chair, Morrison said she learned a lot about leadership through her old position as well as observing former chair Carmen Goséy, who taught her about resilience as a woman of color on campus.
“I have so much hope for our campus and I care so deeply about it and so I wanted to be in a position where I could maximize my ability to create change on campus,” Morrison said. “I thought it would be a great fit.”
Morrison said the council’s makeup will definitely be different from the 23rd session. Whereas last session’s focus was almost exclusively on social issues, Morrison said this session is also interested in academic-related items.
“That’s just how it’s shifted in terms of the makeup and also a lot of these people joined council because they were frustrated with ASM last year,” Morrison said. “So they’re going in with the mentality to be willing and available to have conversations with the general student body and to include them in all decisions that we make.”
In addition, according to Morrison, many council members have viewpoints that are more moderate which she thinks will allow them to “work well together.”
“I wouldn’t expect this council to take up issues that don’t have widespread support from the student body,” Morrison said.
However, not everyone is as certain of this after last spring.
In late April, Morrison helped draft a one-page resolution on divestment that Student Council passed. The highly controversial legislation named Israel in the resolution, angering many in the Jewish community who said they felt their identities were being targeted.
In response, UW-Madison’s College Republicans called for a disbandment of the student government, describing the final four-page legislation as “disgusting BDS legislation,” although members of ASM have denied connection to BDS.
On ASM’s election night, Dylan Resch ran against Morrison for chair. During his campaign speech, he discussed the previous council’s “failures” at being held accountable to the student body, saying that the body was entering its most “dire hour” and needed change.
“Individuals who are are members of the previous council who have not recognized those issues nor attempted to fix them in the last session will certainly fail to address them in the new session,” Resch said at the time.
The representative also mentioned Morrison’s Student Judiciary hearing for her actions at the April 12 meeting and a petition that was in circulation to recall her.
Morrison said she never saw the petition or knew how many signatures it got.
“I was disappointed that there were students who wanted to remove me from council, because I know I always have the best of intentions and I truly care about improving student life on campus,” Morrison said.
Besides Resch, Jake Lubenow, president of UW-Madison’s College Republicans chapter, said the group was “insulted by the actions against our friends in the Jewish community” and that Morrison hasn’t done much to fix the wrongs. While the organization is hopeful, Lubenow said he was not anticipating the new leadership would work with his group.
“College Republicans across campus have lost faith in our student government to be anything above a progressive activist breeding ground,” Lubenow said. “While Ms. Morrison has perpetuated that notion in the past, we’ll work diligently with her to correct that, should she be willing.”
Since last spring, Morrison said she wants to “repair relationships.” This summer, she met with university officials, even collaborating with them to put on Networking Night, an event for ASM members and top administrators. To increase conversation between representatives and their corresponding deans, Morrison said they will meet and give presentations a few times a semester.
“I believe that we can accomplish a lot of change if we do it together,” Morrison said. “I don’t want to be in a position where we are only pushing back at administration when we don’t have to. So if there are things we can get done together, that’s where I’d like us to start.”
In addition, Morrison said ASM also has plans for connecting with the student body through outreach events.
On ASM’s election night, several students mentioned their interest in increasing student body involvement with ASM’s affairs in their campaign speeches, including Outreach Director Yogev Ben-Yitschak, who said Morrison is very interested in outreach, something that has been lacking in the past.
Morrison said she and Ben-Yitschak have talked about engaging students and increasing transparency through outreach events including a coffee chat and a new radio show in the fall which will cover issues of importance to students.
“With my outreach events, I hope I can not only show what ASM is but also change the image of ASM in Madison,” Ben-Yitschak said. “Many students don’t know what we do, don’t care, or think we’re useless or dumb. I really want to change that and show students what we actually are—their voice.”
With that voice, Lubenow said Morrison has the power to decide how the 24th session will impact the student body. In the meantime, College Republican’s pursuit of disbandment is still on the table, he said.
“We [College Republicans] are hoping that she tries to rebuild a semblance of trust the student body needs to have in its student government,” Lubenow said. “We’ll be pursuing a referendum if our members believe that is the best course of action and if ASM seems unwilling to become a viable voice for our students.”
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