College News

Morrison apologizes to new session of Council, body passes code of conduct

New Student Council Chair Katrina Morrison issued an apology at the semester's first meeting.

Image By: Jon Yoon

The 23rd session of the Associated Students of Madison may be over, but Student Council Chair Katrina Morrison had one more task before the 24th session could get down to business.

Morrison issued a public apology for her actions during a discussion following the divestment legislation, as ordered by the Student Judiciary branch.

“I am saddened that I contributed to an environment of exclusion,” Morrison said. “My intentions were never to alienate Jewish members of our community, but I fully recognize that that was my impact.”

Following the statement, former ASM member Ariela Rivkin—one of the students to file the formal complaint against Morrison and current Hillel board member—said she appreciated Morrison’s “serious and heartfelt manner” and looks forward to constructive leadership including the Jewish community.

Others had mixed feelings.

Another complainant, Jake Lubenow, chair of College Republicans, said the apology was “certainly necessary given last year’s events.” Lubenow said that he and other College Republicans are hopeful this is the beginning of serious change in ASM but are “not holding [their] breath.”

After Morrison’s statement, fellow petitioner Rep. Diego Villegas said, “An apology means nothing if no further actions are taken to ensure that ASM stands firm against any form of discrimination.”

However, Villegas said he was glad Morrison offered “a real apology” and appreciated her acknowledging that she negatively impacted the Jewish community despite good intentions.

“I acted in ways that are not reflective of the values I hold or the leader I strive to be,” Morrison said in her apology. “I am committed to creating an environment in which all opinions are valued and appreciated.”

Morrison also recognized that actions speak louder than words and noted that she contributed to a new code of conduct and anti-Semitism legislation, both introduced later in the meeting.

The code listed specific prohibited behavior, ranging from personal issues like online harassment to minimal infractions like printing personal documents on ASM printers.

Despite differing degrees of offense, the enforcement policy offers one penalty per incident without taking into account the level of severity. For example, if a representative had several incidents of harassment throughout one meeting, they would only receive the first violation penalty—a verbal warning from the chair or vice chair. Representatives voiced concern with that portion of the code among others.

Rep. Dylan Resch, who advocated for a zero-tolerance policy, said the code “didn’t provide real consequences for actions,” nor did it “prevent harassment from happening at council meetings.”

In the end, the body added an amendment requiring a two-thirds vote from council will be necessary for a more severe violation procedure.

While Resch thought the code wasn’t nuanced enough, Rep. Billy Welsh, another co-author, said it is more than council has had for years.

“There were a variety of things that were so unacceptable,” Morrison said of the 23rd session. “Of course what happened at the divestment meetings with the yelling, the screaming … the inappropriate acts, all led me to believe a code of conduct was necessary.”

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