Enthusiastic clapping echoed throughout the hearing room, and even though representatives’ faces were partly hidden behind masks, smiling eyes could still be seen lighting up the room on Wednesday night.
The Associated Students of Madison Student Council had just passed new legislation that will fight to fix the language in the Wisconsin State Legislature about shared governance, which guarantees students and faculty are involved in the decision making for campus policies.
“It was good to have something to actually show for all the effort put in last year,” ASM Chair Adrian Lampron said Wednesday, after the council met in person for the first time since the pandemic began. The vote passed with 21 members in favor and only one member against the legislation.
However, this is “ideally the bare minimum,” said Legislative Affairs Chair Muralidharan Govindarajan, who was responsible for starting the legislation in April.
Now that the legislation has passed, ASM will proceed by contacting state legislators about organizing a hearing and pitching their case to bring back the language in state statute 36.09(5), which was changed six years ago and removed the voice UW students had to make decisions in campus wide policies.
In 2015, Governor Scott Walker passed an act that would change this statute from allowing students “primary responsibility for the formulation and review of policies” to having “primary responsibility for advising the Chancellor.”
The decision to change the language in the state statute took UW students “from active participants to suddenly this subordinate role to the Chancellor,” said ASM Press Office Director Tyler Katzenberger. “It’s highly important making sure student voices [are] heard, and student opinions are reflected in campus policies.”
Although ASM has attempted to regain the voice and power for UW students by passing this legislation practically unanimously, UW students and faculty still won’t be able to hold any real power in campus decisions until they set up a meeting with legislators, and the statute is changed on a state level.
ASM also discussed other issues to tackle throughout the year, such as fossil fuel divestment in the Sustainability Committee and advocacy for more mental health services and sexual abuse prevention in the Equity and Inclusion Committee.
For many UW-Madison students and ASM members, like Govindarajan, passing this legislation wasn’t just a step in the right direction toward shared governance for UW-Madison students — it was also an opportunity to advocate for shared governance for students in other institutions throughout the state as well.
“I’m happy that this is going in the direction that I want it, and students will finally get the voice that they lost six years ago,” Govindarajan said. “But we’re hoping to get that hearing, and we’re hoping to use that to get some momentum on this.”