The Associated Students of Madison and UW-Madison administration shared hors d'oeuvres and conversation Tuesday during Networking Night, a new event that Chair Katrina Morrison hoped would “repair relationships from last year.”
The Networking Night environment contrasted a rocky 2016 between ASM and administration.
Last year, several members questioned the administration’s commitment to diversity when officials were slow to respond to anti-semitic graffiti that appeared in Sellery Hall in September. In October, many were angry with Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s handling of a noose costume worn to a football game, where she denounced it, but said the costume was protected under free speech. In the spring, Council passed controversial divestment legislation, causing Blank to dismiss the process the night of the legislation’s passage after saying Council’s actions appeared “to violate a ruling of the Student Judiciary.”
Several top UW-Madison administrators attended the networking night, including Blank, Dean of Students Lori Berquam and Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Patrick Sims. They spoke with ASM members during speed conversations.
ASM members said they liked the opportunity to pair names with faces. Outreach Director Yogev Ben-Yitschak said the event gave him a chance to interact with people in positions he had never heard of.
“I think the best part about this night was is that there were so many things that I didn’t notice the school does,” Ben-Yitschak said. “I went into this not 100 percent sure where I would fit in. Other committees like Equity and Inclusion, Sustainability — they have their very specific campaigns they want to work on. But as I started going, I realized that we could actually connect in every single way.”
The administration was also complimentary of Networking Night. Blank said it was great to meet with ASM leadership outside of meetings, while Sims said he thought the event was productive and hopes the conversations will be sustainable throughout the rest of the year.
In an email, Morrison said “upwards of 30 administrators” would be attending, but Council Secretary Jordan Pasbrig said several who were invited and did not RSVP also came to the event.
Morrison said she hopes to put on another Networking Night sometime in January, though the format will be different.
“My primary objective for the night was to ensure that students and administrators were able to build productive and meaningful relationships and I would say that that was achieved,” Morrison said. “I’ve heard from so many students and administrators after tonight that they feel like they took a lot away from this evening and they feel like they know ASM as a whole much better than they did before.”