Campus gets out the vote
The election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States is not something UW-Madison students will soon forget. For many, it was the first presidential election they could participate and vote in, and a large number joined youth across the country and participated with gusto.
Obama's charisma and promise for change appealed to students and energized what some politicians and pundits had thought to be an apathetic generation. When he won the presidency on Nov. 4, Obama carried 66 percent of the youth vote.
But with this support comes responsibility on the part of President-elect Obama when he reaches the White House. Obama must follow through on his promises to make college more affordable by giving a fully refundable $4,000 credit to cover the expenses of college.
Along with watching out for students' financial needs, Obama must also follow through on his promise to change Washington politics. Many students turned off by petty partisan politics came out for Obama, and he owes it to them to follow through on his reforms.
The election of Barack Obama was certainly historical, and if he lives up to his campaign promises, the next four years will prove to be as well.
Band hazing scandal
For the first time in 40 years, the Badger football team played a home game without the UW Marching Band present. The cause? Hazing allegations that were later confirmed by Band Director Mike Leckrone and Dean of Students Lori Berquam.
Aiming to teach band members a lesson, Mike Leckrone suspended the band on Oct. 11 for the game against Penn State at Camp Randall. Shortly after, it was announced that the band would simply be suspended from traveling and new staff would be added to ensure the band behaves like adults. Shortly after, the band was allowed to travel to Lambeau Field for the Green Bay Packers game versus the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 19.
Claiming that student leadership had proven they were willing to step up, Leckrone lifted the ban and promised change. The extent of this change has yet to be seen, and it might have to wait until the band's next trip to Michigan, where hazing occured the last two times.
Only time will tell if the band truly learned its lesson from Leckrone slapping their wrists, but enforcing drastic consequences, publicly humilating the band and revoking these consequences in less than a week might send the wrong message. If hazing occurs again, it very well could end Leckrone's job.
Biddy Martin's first semester
After the long and eventful tenure of former Chancellor John Wiley, UW-Madison welcomed Carolyn Biddy"" Martin onto campus to follow in Wiley's sizable footsteps. Through all the pomp and circumstance accompanied with a new chancellor, Martin has had little opportunity to enact any sizable changes.
However, Martin has taken some actions to distance herself from her predecessor. Among Martin's moves have been establishing a relationship with Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, a lobby opposed by Wiley during his tenure as chancellor due to their political views. In addition, Martin has also created a position for a vice chancellor to handle communications, state relations and economic development.
Martin's actions display a willingness to restructure her staff to the way she sees fit, as well as take necessary actions to address the growing budgetary issues at UW-Madison. Better relations with WMC and a vice chancellor specializing in state relations could help restore funding from the Capitol as well as other sources.
Although Martin's first semester was fairly quiet, she has shown the power to embrace new strategies in order to address the current problems of UW-Madison.
The Dane County 911 Center first came under fire in April after mishandling the call placed by UW-Madison student Brittany Zimmermann before she was murdered. In November, the 911 Center mishandled another call prior to the death of a man in Lake Edge Park.
Although former 911 Center Director Joe Norwick stepped down Sept. 19, the center remains under fire. Although Norwick cannot single-handedly be blamed for the Zimmermann call error, his resignation paved the way for dramatic and effective change at the center.
County Executive Kathleen Falk and the County Board have since created 11 new staff positions at the center, added a $2 million computer system to the 2009 budget and allocated over $160,000 for software to standardize the questions dispatchers ask when taking calls.
Although these additions to the 2009 budget show Falk and the County Board are taking steps to repair the broken 911 Center, more immediate action should be taken to restore the faith of county residents. The lost faith in the center warranted action in April; waiting until January to make actual changes is prolonging the mistrust and disappointment felt throughout Dane County.
Football ticket issues
The UW Athletic Department came under heavy scrutiny this past year over revisions to the football ticket policy. The new lottery system left many seniors empty-handed who would've enjoyed season football tickets in the past, and wristbands - though intended rightfully to eliminate seating disputes - reached the point of debacle following the Marshall game. With hundreds of student fans held up in the concourse growing increasingly riotous at the slow pace the wristband procedure created, it became clear that the ticket policy again needed amending - immediately.
The Athletic Department responded with the amount of care and responsibility students should recognize and appreciate. Responding to student feedback, they swallowed any pride and reverted to the old voucher system before the Ohio State game.
""We really do care about the students, and we value their input,"" senior associate athletic director for external relations Vince Sweeney said. ""[Their input] is what led us to this decision.""
Whether an entirely acceptable ticket system exists remains to be seen, but the Athletic Department responded appropriately to their customers. Look for more changes to be proposed and experimented with in the coming year.