After postponing a vote on legislation that would allow first-year representation on the body, the Associated Students of Madison passed it on the first of two votes Tuesday night.
The legislation would put a non-voting first-year liaison on the body, but many representatives questioned why a specific committee needed to be formed around freshmen issues when their concerns were already being addressed on other committees.
Additionally, Equity and Inclusion Chair Alex Hader pointed out that there were other ways that these students could get involved such as through ASM’s internship program which mostly consists of freshmen.
“So they [freshmen] come in with little knowledge of the university and they get to work on campaigns that they are passionate about on campus,” Hader said.
Opponents were also hesitant, calling the legislation a gut reaction to Student Judiciary’s controversial decision to eliminate freshmen representation in September.
ASM’s judicial branch redistributes seats every four years as part of its reapportionment which is based on the number of students in each school or college, which can fluctuate. Freshmen seats were given to Business, Engineering, Graduate and Special students.
“[Freshmen representatives] were a special status not given to incoming graduate students, transfer students or any other student population that was new to the university,” Chief Justice William Olson said at the time. “We reached the consensus that with reapportionment we should aim to provide equal voice to all students and not create special classes among the student body.”
In February, ASM shot down a proposal that called for a reevaluation of Student Judiciary’s decision. The legislation, put together by Reps. Dylan Resch and Mianzhi Huang, “condemns Student Judiciary’s decision to eliminate Freshmen Representative Seats.”
Furthermore, opponents said that the legislation could open the body up to “a slippery slope” of other underrepresented groups claiming that they do not receive adequate representation on Student Council.
Rep. Ethan Carpenter, a co-sponsor on the legislation said that while he wouldn’t want ASM to “become a tribal council of seats apportioned based on identities of different people, rather than election,” it’s important to listen to those who feel that they aren’t being listened to.
“They are groups that feel like they need people to reach out to them and if we want to reach out to them — if they want us to reach out to them — I feel like we have a responsibility to do that,” Carpenter said. “Moreover, we should be eager to jump down the slippery slope of listening one hundred percent to the student body.”
Rep. Ekenedilichukwu Ikegwuani agreed with Carpenter, telling The Daily Cardinal that these groups aren’t being “actively barred” as first year students are.
During the meeting, Ikegwuani said first year students needed a voice because representatives on the body were already not being listened to. He referenced a past meeting where Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Patrick Sims asked students to endorse an institutional statement on diversity. Only students of color and one white student voted against the statement even when Ikegwuani asked the body to shoot it down.
“So there seems to be a lot of talk of how freshmen can still be involved and how we can listen to them,” Ikegwuani said. “I as a student of color spoke about how I felt about a specific piece of legislation and all of the white students sitting in this room except for one refused to listen to me. So are we just supposed to sit here and expect freshmen and first year transfer students and other first year students on campus to just hope that you guys will listen to them when you guys don’t even listen to your own representatives?”
The legislation will receive a final vote at ASM’s last meeting of the session in two weeks.