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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

ASM approves divestment, cannabis decriminalization and the ban of facial recognition software

The Associated Students of Madison (ASM) approved four of the five proposed legislation at their meeting on Tuesday, demanding divestment from fossil fuels, the ban of face surveillance, leniency for the use and possession of cannabis on campus and class attendance exemption for student poll workers on Election Days. 

The body also chose to delay a vote that would have called on the UW to amend the fact that many international student employees telecommuting from abroad have not received proper payment from the university.

The meeting started off with representatives voting on previously introduced legislation. At the Nov. 19 student council meeting, the UW Divestment Coalition introduced the proposal which calls for UW System schools to push for the removal of investments in fossil fuels. 

With no objections to the legislation, ASM officially endorsed the resolution. This joins UW-Madison with nine other UW System campus student groups who have already called for their respective schools to divest. 

After members voted on the divestment resolution, ASM Chair Matthew Mitnick introduced legislation calling for UW-Madison Police Department (UWPD) to ban face surveillance. 

Aimed to ban facial recognition software that allows for the identification of people from videos and images, this legislation requests that UWPD eliminate their use of this technology and creates a Standard Operating Procedure before the Spring 2021 semester, detailing their use of the technology.

The proposal cited studies that summarize the inaccuracy of the software and the Madison Common Council’s efforts to eliminate the use of this technology as their reasons for the ban. 

With no objections, this legislation passed.

Later on, the student representatives introduced legislation calling for the decriminalization of marijuana on campus, to align with the City of Madison’s ordinance which allowed for the use and possession of small amounts of cannabis. 

UW-Madison is not able to independently take direct action regarding leniency for the possession and use of cannabis on campus due to UW System-wide regulations. Because of these restrictions, ASM is asking UW-Madison to explore ways that they can independently take action and call for the state legislature to adjust UW System regulations. 

The council approved this legislation by unanimous consent. 

The next legislation called for UW-Madison to give student poll workers an exemption from class attendance on Election Days. The proposal acknowledged the unique health risks that students faced by working at the polls during the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020 general election in November. 

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Representative Chris Unterberger introduced the legislation and noted how it aims to encourage students to continue to turn out as poll workers in future elections and incentivizes students to take jobs as poll workers by offering them exemption from class attendance during election days. 

This motion was approved unanimously by ASM members.

ASM members table telecommuting resolution

At the meeting, ASM members decided to wait another week before voting on legislation which calls for UW-Madison to retroactively pay international student workers who telecommute for the Fall 2020 semester. 

This legislation, originally proposed at their Student Council meeting on Nov. 17, alleges that UW-Madison denied wages to student employees telecommuting from outside the U.S.

ASM representatives deliberated over the legislation and indicated confusion over the terms of the legislation, likely in part due to the email that Chief Human Resources Director and Associate Vice Chancellor Mark Walters sent to the council.. 

The email, shared in a Tweet on Mitnick’s account, was sent minutes before the meeting in response to an op-ed that Mitnick, Owino, Li and Jorudd wrote. The op-ed called for Walters and Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration Laurent Heller to pay all student workers who are telecommuting, no matter if they are working in the U.S. or not. 

In the email, Walters committed to pay all student employees for their work already performed, but, moving forward, stated students who are telecommuting from outside the U.S. will not be offered student hourly positions. 

With new details emerging from the email, several student council members wanted to amend and further consider this legislation. In order to ensure they spend adequate time making amendments to the legislation, Vice Chair Aerin Leigh Lammers proposed that they table the legislation for another week.

Owino, who sponsored and introduced the proposal, raised concerns about this move. 

“I object to tabling it tonight because I do not understand the reasons as to why this specific legislation is confusing,” Owino said. “We have had two weeks of discussions with administrators from the HR department, we have had discussions with deans about this specific legislation… I don’t understand what part of this specific legislation is confusing or needs clarification.”

“Any clarification that you needed was provided by Mark Walters in his email that he sent out 45 minutes prior to this council meeting,” Owino said. “He had the option of attending this council meeting, but chose not to, so I do not see why we need to postpone voting on this specific legislation tonight.”

With a vote of 11 members for tabling, eight members against tabling and two abstaining, student council representatives voted to table the legislation where they will address the matter again at their next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

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