The Associated Students of Madison passed three new pieces of legislation at their final meeting of the 2020-21 school year Tuesday.
In this legislation, the Student Council officially committed to promoting self-determination, justice and liberation for Indigenous people at the UW-Madison and across Wisconsin. They further demanded that UW-Madison students should be able to apply to receive financial assistance from the COVID-19 Student Relief Fund as a one-time use of allocable fee reserves and demanded that UW-Madison eliminate a surcharge on students who take over 165 credits.
The first piece of legislation, which passed unanimously, recognized that the UW-Madison occupies the Indigenous land of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Myaamia, Ho-Chunk, Sauk and Meskwaki, Peoria and Kiikaapoi.
“It is really important to note the need for communication with Native American and Native Indian students on campus and discussing proper acknowledgment and honor towards the land that we are on and the space that we take up,” said UW-Madison student Lourdes Puig. “Recently more organizations do make acknowledgments, but it is really interesting seeing the lack of proper acknowledgment.”
After the recognition, the 27th session of ASM recommended that the future sessions collaborate with Indigenous student organizations and scholars to agree upon a land recognition statement that will be potentially read before each Student Council meeting.
This legislation is a part of a series of legislation focused on continuing cooperation between ASM and Indigenous student organizations and scholars.
“It seems like organizations are trying to get it out of the way and in some cases seems so scripted that it becomes unmeaningful and uncomfortable,” said Puig. “Acknowledgement is also just one step and will not solve the larger problems.”
ASM’s next piece of legislation involved a policy created at the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents in 2002 which established a surcharge on students if they accumulate 165 credits or 30 credits more than required to graduate. According to ASM, Provost Karl Scholz publicly shared that the surcharge would not be eliminated since it would encourage students not to graduate on time.
“I am here to speak in support of the surcharge legislation,” said Jack Bybel, an Electrical Engineering Student at UW-Madison. “I’m an out-of-state engineering student where I give $37,000 a year to attend this university. I have taken no less than 15 credits every single semester I have been here and yet I still might have to take a fifth year due to requirements involved in being an engineer and how scheduling has worked.”
ASM, through this legislation, demanded that UW-Madison eliminate the surcharge, like the majority of other campuses have done. The student council also suggested that the Traditional Student Regent take a stand on behalf of all UW System schools.
“Advisors telling me that since classes are full and I have to take a fifth year due to scheduling, that is unacceptable to me,” said Bybel. “Then for the university to not get rid of some of the surcharges is a slap in the face to me and other students who have spent over $100,000 at this university and work hard every day to work on their degrees.”
The student council requested an immediate meeting with Provost Scholz to discuss the legislation.
In the last piece of legislation, ASM stated that the Reserve Board should dispose of allocable fee reserves, which would result in students receiving a refund of the allocable segregated university fees for the fiscal year of 2020-21.
The ASM Reserve Board also adopted previous iterations of the COVID-19 Student Relief Fund — the student government’s effort to support housing insecure and homeless students amid the pandemic. University administrators this semester repeatedly refused to enact the fund as designed by ASM, claiming that it violates UW System policy against direct gifts to individual students.
The new legislation asked that refunds from the Reserve Board be given to students as soon as possible with a timeline goal for students to receive aid by June at the latest.
Any student can apply for financial assistance from the COVID-19 Student Relief Fund. The Office of Financial Aid will disperse funds in the same manner they have for students in the past who make emergency requests.
The first meeting of the 28th Session of ASM Student Council will be held on Saturday, April 24, 2021, at 12 p.m. on Zoom.