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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

ASM ensures that student voice is heard


In the midst of endless internal debates concerning contested disagreements ranging from election violations to authority over student org funding, last week the Associated Students of Madison actually did something progressive, for a change.

In partnership with United Council, ASM Chair Allie Gardner and United Council Vice Chair Dylan Jambrek suggested to the Board of Regents something this editorial board thought was a complete no-brainer. In an attempt to increase shared governance and the general student voice across the entire UW System, Gardner and Jambrek asked the regents to consider increasing communication channels with students on a state-wide scale.  The two simply asked the Board of Regents to add an open forum to its meetings, release an agenda and reach out to student groups on a regular basis—allowing for more student participation and input in the Board of Regent’s most basic functions.

Although it seems obvious to operate under a transparent and approachable governing body, this is the first time this editorial board has seen an actual attempt to cultivate such a communicative student-regent relationship. As we see it, the majority of students across the state have little knowledge of the regents’ purpose and function as a system-wide governing body. But in actuality the Board of Regents has such far-reaching and bureaucratic authority it was the basis for former Chancellor Biddy Martin’s attempt to separate from the UW System in her New Badger Partnership. From delegation of funds to staffing to even having the final say in the Multi-Cultural Student Coalition’s financial debacle, the Board of Regents has the power to shape the college experience, making it incredibly important students have an avenue to provide their own perspective and input.

That said, the university can’t tout its deep belief in shared governance without providing access for interaction across all facets of the UW System. Last week, ASM stepped up and recognized the value shared governance has in the Wisconsin Idea and took initiative to progress it. If  UW prides itself on its ability to operate with and for students, it only seems obvious the UW System play a role in this communication. The only problem is getting students to use it.

While regents welcome meetings and conversations with students across the state, students have little knowledge of these opportunities, let alone time to utilize them. Creating a more accessible route to the regents has the potential to increase the number of students interested in communicating with the Board of Regents and, ultimately, a larger student impact. With funding cut after funding cut, tuition hike after tuition hike and a new Chancellor on the horizon, the weight shared governance has on core financial and educational decisions will continue to soar. Allowing discussions and conversations to expand presents a wider-range of opportunities for students to step up and make their voice heard.

With that, we applaud ASM for untangling itself from its twisted web of domestic disputes and doing the job it was elected to do: promote the student voice. And while the Board of Regents may not be at the forefront of the majority of student’s minds, the fact is they are the individuals instilled with the most power to govern and oversee the entire UW System. UW’s value in sharing this governance must continue to be recognized as the piece that holds us together—something students can’t afford to forget.

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