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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

ASM divestment fallout: internal lawsuits erupt

Three times this week Associated Students of Madison representatives brought cases against their own Student Council surrounding controversial divestment legislation and a subsequent bylaws change.

Case One

Rep. Stephen Chang and Shared Governance Chair Omer Arain alleged Council violated open records and open meetings laws. They asked to void events of the March 29th meeting, including a vote to indefinitely table divestment legislation.

The judiciary issued a summary judgment finding for two petitioners’ allegations. Their decision mandates two bylaws changes and an apology for minute inaccuracies.

Case Two

Grant Allocation Chair Ariela Rivkin, a Jewish student, filed a suit against Council alleging malicious intent and discrimination of the Jewish community.

After divestment was tabled, the authors proposed to add a new committee devoted to financial transparency. Rep. Glen Water, who introduced the bylaws change, said the authors took input from many campus groups but did not receive a final reply from Rivkin before introducing the proposal at the April 12th meeting—on Passover.

However, prior to the meeting, Rivkin had asked leaders to refrain from debating any proposal related to the sensitive issue while Jewish students were away for religious observance.

Her complaint alleges that not only was the introduction of the bylaws change on Passover discriminating, but Council members voted to have the first vote on change at that meeting—a break from due process that dictates an introduction and two votes all at separate meetings—expediting the process and causing further harm.

Student Judiciary voted to uphold an injunction against any further discussion of the bylaws change until an official hearing. Proponents of the legislation argued this would prevent a vote from ever happening as the 23rd session comes to a close next week.

Case Three

Goséy and Morrison filed a case against Student Council alleging discrimination of them as black women. They specifically cite Rivkin as singling them out in her petition and not bylaws-sponsor Rep. Devin Judge-Lord—a white man. They cite numerous cases of alleged attempts to silence them and smear their character.

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Cases two and three await filing of petitioner and respondent's briefs before a Student Judiciary's hearing. 

UPDATE 4/26/17: This article was updated to correct a fact error in Stephen Chang's name.

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