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Friday, February 26, 2021

ASM proposes motions on renewable energy, telecommuting reciprocation

The Associated Students of Madison (ASM) met Tuesday to propose new legislation calling for renewable energy at UW-Madison, continue payment for employees telecommuting during the pandemic and recap a Big-Ten-Wide push towards a pass/fail option for the Fall 2020 semester. 

The first Special Order discussed in the meeting was the UW Divestment Coalition, which is a united effort of 10 student groups from different UW-System campuses who demand that the UW System campuses withdraw funds from unethical sources. They focused on the divestment of fossil fuel stocks and bonds and the detriments that the UW System faces by investing in fossil fuels. 

“Last March and over the summer we did a lot of research and something that keeps coming up is that renewable energy has shown better returns in the past six years,” UW Lacrosse student and member of the UW Divestment Coalition Andrew Ericson said. “Oil and gas companies are not performing well, so even from a financial standpoint it makes sense to divest.”

The goals of the UW Divestment Coalition include urging the UW-Board of Regents to vote to gain transparency within the UW System about all endowment investments, divest from all fossil fuel companies within three to five years and reinvest in companies who promote the idea of a sustainable and equitable future.

Another student group committed to fighting climate change, the Campus Leaders for Energy Action Now (CLEAN), presented the second Special Order at the meeting. 

CLEAN is a UW-Madison student coalition with the goal of gaining Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s signature on an agreement guaranteeing 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and 100 percent total renewable energy by 2035 at UW-Madison. 

“When it comes to climate change a lot of people talk about adaptation and resilience as a solution to the threats of climate change, but in the long run it’s not a satisfactory solution,” CLEAN representative Maya Barwick said. “The only genuine solution in the long run is to reverse the accumulation of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and that is through the prevention of emissions of fossil fuels such as coal.”

Barwick and fellow members referenced UW-Madison’s Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating Systems 2019 report where the University earned a score of 0.06/4.00 for Clean and Renewable Energy, with 1.61 percent of total energy consumption sourced from clean and renewable energy sources on campus. 

CLEAN teamed up with the ASM Sustainability Committee to sponsor the “Resolution Calling for a Renewable Energy Commitment,” which asks UW-Madison for its commitment to CLEAN’s goals for 100 percent renewable electricity and energy by 2030 and 2035, respectively. 

This resolution passed unanimously, signifying more pressure on the University to take action.

Another resolution was proposed, calling for UW-Madison to continuously pay faculty, staff, postdocs and graduate students who are telecommuting undiscriminate of where they reside.

This report will be discussed and voted on during future student council meetings, with the next meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 1.

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After the Special Reports and resolutions, Chair Matthew Mitnick recapped the letter he, along with the Student body presidents of the 13 other Big Ten schools, signed calling for their respective universities to implement leniency in terms of grading with a system similar to pass/fail for the Fall 2020 semester. 

“In this letter we are asking for a comprehensive policy that is essentially doing what happened last semester,” Mitnick said. “The issues this semester are not mitigated from what we saw last semester and in many of my classes there have been students who have got COVID-19 due to potentially attending the in-person class and then they can’t attend class which creates even more barriers to even getting the instruction.”

Mitnick passed the letter onto members of the UW-Madison administration. ASM leaders made no motion against the proposition, further endorsing the letter. 

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