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Saturday, December 09, 2023

ASM sets bar high for next year

Until recently, the Associated Students of Madison's bafflingly unorganized, unaccountable and bureaucratic funding system could justifiably be compared to a wild game of Monopoly with student segregated fees. This year, however, we were pleased to see ASM make some refreshing and efficient changes when it came to getting things done.

The progress made by the Legislative Affairs Committee, headed by sophomore Sam Polstein, was ASM's true success story this year. In the fall, the committee hosted the first annual Student Housing Fair, which attracted hundreds of students and gave them the opportunity to talk to various landlords face-to-face. 

Legislative Affairs also helped put together a gubernatorial debate and partnered with The Daily Cardinal to sponsor a well-attended debate between the State Assembly District 77 candidates. Most recently, the committee lobbied against the Voter ID bill at the state Capitol and put serious effort in making the negative effects of the legislation more visible to students. 

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The Student Services Finance Committee also proved it is serious about reform. By the end of the session, ASM passed the Campus Services Fund, a plan proposed by SSFC Chair Matt Manes, that would ensure funding for legal, tutoring and sexual assault support services—vital programs that deserve recognition and continued support from ASM. Manes also impressed us when he held town halls with students to discuss SSFC's funding streams and distributed an incentive-based student survey to gauge support for the CSF.

It is clear ASM is no longer paralyzed at delivering results. We were excited to see ASM support the New Badger Partnership and back the addition of a second student seat on the Board of Trustees. With this, it is safe to say Student Council has made strides to improve student involvement and campus outreach, as the council recently implemented a live feed of their meetings while individual members have consistently live blogged and tweeted updates from SSFC and Student Judiciary hearings. 

That's not to say we've been impressed with every move Student Council made this year. 

By the beginning of spring semester the Diversity Committee had functionally capsized under former chair Martín Uraga's direction. Diversity on campus was a particularly touchy issue this year—with the Holocaust denial ad controversy bookending last school year's diversity debate and the failed ""diversity"" photo shoot beginning this year's conversation, the Diversity Committee had an opportunity to foster a much-needed, campus-wide discussion on tolerance and respect. Instead, Uraga failed to set agendas for the committee, rarely showed up to Student Council meetings and ended up resigning after his first semester as chair. 

A series of shady decisions made by a set of heady ASM leaders also cast a shadow of embarrassment on a number of individual members' tenure. After a few members were connected to a shadow registered student organization known as Associated Free Thinkers Ensuring Responsibility (AFTER) it became clear that some ASM leaders were using their power to sidestep Student Council bylaws.  

Despite these setbacks, ASM made significant steps to build itself up as a relevant body in campus affairs. However, the newly elected ASM members who will carry out and test a number of this year's proposals could not be more different from the old guard that has controlled Student Council for years. The fresh faces—many of whom are affiliated with GSSF groups SSFC has worked to defund—bring a different ideology and set of priorities. 

We hope the new members don't let their ideas for change become divisive or get in the way of this year's successes. If nothing else, we hope next year's session takes substantive measures to fix the obnoxiously dated relic they call ASM's website.

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