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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
ASM slates detrimental to student gov't process

MPOWER rally: Members of MPOWER slate gather on Bascom Hill for a rally to kick off their campaigns for ASM. The slate encompasses 23 candidates for Student Council.

ASM slates detrimental to student gov't process

The Associated Students of Madison, UW's student government, has its elections online next week, April 12-14. On the ballot: most Student Council seats; spots on the Student Services Finance Committee, which allocates over $38 million in student segregated fees annually; and four referendum measures, including a plan to renovate the decrepit Natatorium.



Although it may not be obvious on the ballot, one monster is rearing its ugly head yet again this ASM election cycle—slates. Slates are ASM's version of political parties, but they often last a year at most. FACES, a slate that fared well in Student Council elections last year, has all but imploded and been wiped from the campus consciousness. Some years, ASM goes without any slates. Students represent students without the filter of politicized alliances.



Slates are legal in ASM, but wholly unnecessary. ASM is not Congress. More influential governmental bodies are strictly non-partisan, including Madison Common Council and the Dane County Board.



This year, the only slate, MPOWER, has 23 students running for ASM leadership. Overlooking the comical acronym, their broad platform is more than agreeable. According to the MPOWER website, ""ASM should have inclusive representation, actively organize students on issues that affect them, and spend student fees on student services."" Good luck finding a Student Council candidate who will publicly disagree with that phraseology. The gamut of ASM candidates shouldn't forget that they agree more than they disagree.



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Student Council is a time-devouring, frazzling experience for the average student as is. Representatives should spend time debating how to achieve the worthy goals of MPOWER, not dividing ASM into ultra-liberals and faux-libertarians before the next session begins. The problem does not lie with MPOWER in particular, but slates on principle. Slates are ostentatious in a student government setting.



Every year, ASMers walk a fine line between playing politics and exercising responsible student governance. Politically speaking, slates are a good idea. Slate announcements get front-page coverage and upwards of five comments in Madison's bloated blogosphere. Slate leaders can use the bloc as a recruiting tool to nab candidates for every open seat. But when it comes to decisions made post-election, the important work of ASM, slates are detrimental.



The idea of grouping like-minded candidates together under an efficient banner makes sense, in theory. In practice, the basic functions of student government are bogged down by the political fires a slate introduces. Student government is local enough and important enough that students should be and can focus primarily on cooperation. We get enough partisan politics at the state and national levels of government.



Student Council candidate Adam Johnson has used his position as the current Legislative Affairs committee chair to lobby for student issues on the city, state, even national levels. He built up the Legislative Affairs committee from the shambles it was in when he took over, and maintains open communication through office hours and blogging—all without any association to a slate.



But by being outside of one slate, Johnson, and others, are often grouped into one faction—the ""non-slate."" As was the case last year, the ""non-slate"" easily aligns with the incumbents, resulting in an awkward Old Guard vs. New Kids On The Block dichotomy. Realistically, the organization shouldn't draw much distinction between the two. Student Council representatives are constitutionally limited to two terms, and students have a high turnover rate by definition. The introduction of one slate instantly splinters an organization that should be an amiable group of cooperating students. It creates an expectation for predictable, party-line voting. That kind of politicization is pointless, particularly in a body that should be non-partisan.



But candidates are far more complex than the slate they join. Freshman candidate Beth Huang, a liberal campus activist, has shown strong leadership qualities and a dedication to reasoned debate. She is proudly running with MPOWER, but her commitment to reason suggests she would vote her mind, not her slate's, if elected.



ASM elections may not be as sexy as Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, but we have an obligation to take part in the organization that allocates our student segregated fees and deals with administration. UW is a community populated by students with our own representative government. Next Monday through Wednesday, vote online at Slate or no slate, remember these ASM hopefuls will be in charge of your student government. And your $38 million.



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

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