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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, September 29, 2023

Tough job ahead for ASM

Undoubtedly you voted in the ASM elections sometime in the last three days, right? No?! I nearly forgot myself. Had I not coincidentally used MyUW, I would not have noticed the small ""Vote now"" box encouraging students to vote for their own student government. At least they ran glorious full-page ads in The Daily Cardinal featuring ""Uncle ASM."" Good thing I was approached by text, not human beings lobbying students to exercise their civic duty.

Today we should get some brand new elected officials. And as a former freshman rep on the Student Council, I know how much four lucky froshes are going to hate their lives in the coming months.

I spent my first academic year at UW sitting in biweekly meetings from 6:30 until midnight and despising Robert's Rules of Order. Unable to make any summer meetings, I resigned my post in (unfulfilled) hopes a new voice would be appointed to fill my seat. I wasn't the only freshman rep to do so.

A tidbit of advice for the new freshman reps: Start making yourself relevant in Student Council so you can become one of the student chairs and make thousands of dollars each year. Don't worry, everyone else is on Facebook during the meetings. And don't get on one of the legitimate committees—who needs more work?

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In its defense, ASM has been the launching pad of some of our city's most heroic government leaders. By some I mean current UW senior and city alder Bryon Eagon, who began his political involvement at Madison as a freshman rep in ASM. Once a luminary, always a luminary.

Whether you are Bryon Eagon or a brand new freshman rep, it takes some self-education to scale the steep ASM learning curve. Memorizing the cornucopia of acronyms and flailing octopus of subcommittees that is ASM will require reading plenty of newspaper articles. But only from the Cardinal, of course.

Although I had once thought the previous round of representatives to be inefficient, I cannot expect much more out of the current, considerably more dramatic group of representatives.

That's not to imply changing campus is easy. With two-year term limits and resignations, ASM's internal memory is relegated to the non-student paid staff, who, similar to representatives, change frequently and do not attend every meeting.

After discussing with fellow former freshman representatives, we concluded that ASM is not broken; but as expected, there is room for improvement, which can only happen when student reps take initiative.

Last year, many worthwhile ideas were put forth to reach out to students and open up ASM. Several ideas are in the works or underway, including a newsletter and ASM's recent open house forums.

Thoughtful representatives like graduate student Erik Paulson and his Creative Initiative Grant could affect students in a noticeable way. Representatives should make good on plans to use the new, unnecessarily enormous office space ASM has by holding office hours and events. I would stop by and chat about student government proposals that affect me, particularly if they had pizza. Preferably deep-dish three-meat or Gumby sticks.

Robert's Rules of Order might as well be nixed from all ASM discourse if only to help further the extinction of the archaic, exclusive rhetoric. Perhaps students would feel more welcome in Student Council if the dialogue and speaking rules were apprehensible.

Bottom line: Even after reading the paper and talking with friends, it's difficult for the average student to assess or even be aware of ASM's influence.

ASM does have its hands in many great projects on campus, most noticeably the Student Activities Center at U-Square. The new facility is useful, enjoyable and innovative, not stereotypical descriptors of any government actions. Hopefully ASM can continue to serve students in similar ways that garner more than just headlines about SSFC and budget changes. After all, few students care about formal discussions in a conference room. What matters on campus are visible results.

Jamie Stark is a sophomore intending to major in journalism and political science. Please send all feedback to 

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