Friday, October 21st, 2016

Disband student government at UW-Milwaukee


(Note: previous commentary on student government in the UW System can be read here, here, here, and here.)

The worst thing that happened to student government was when student government was actually given some authority. From then on it became a taxing authority answerable to less than 10% of the students independent of any real role in student life.

When I was a student, by the time I reached my senior year (junior year: the best three years of my life) I realized that student governance was a complete scam. It was the UW System’s way of keeping the rabble-rousers busy while the administration went about its business. I also noted the absurdity of students taxing other students so they could collect a minor salary while participating in extracurricular activities. These revelations occurred to me as I sat looking out my student government office with a window overlooking the campus while my unfinished term paper sat on my desk next to my student government provided computer.

Here’s a quick quiz for you. Who get’s more money from the university students, the student government president, or the star of the UWM basketball team? Who is really more important to UW-Milwaukee?

Sometimes getting paid for an extracurricular activity isn’t enough. Sometimes there’s a little graft in the system. After all, who is going to notice? The university? Sometimes it was parking tickets, or getting the university to pay for a rental car for a “conference”. But once in a while some student would come along and just add a little extra spending money to the bottom line.

We don’t yet know if that is what happened in (this case, but it must be pretty serious for the university to take the rare step of shutting down student government temporarily and calling the police. What allegedly occurred is that a student government official paid his own private company $10,000. Possibly the company does not really exist, possibly the company is legit but the transaction wasn’t, possibly the whole transaction was legitimate.

But the episode does underscore how easy it is to take money from the system, and how real conflicts of interest occur inside student government.

Besides, no college kid should ever have a chief of staff.

The students of UW-Milwaukee should take my advice and on the day following election day start a petition drive to abolish student government. Hand over the keys to the administration and be done with it. Abolish all salaries for student organization and student activity leaders, whether inside or outside student government. And finally, sever all ties (financial and otherwise) with off-campus “student lobbying” organizations like United Council and USSA.

Now, everytime I make these suggestions, this is what I hear: the administration is going to steamroll the students and, my favorite, “this year will be different” in student government.

Did student government stop the UW System from hiring Kevin Barrett as a lecturer, petitioning the Board of regents for a tuition increase, or a change in the admissions process which valued multiculturalism over academic standards? Is the sick leave policy going to change anytime soon? Did student government stop the Board of Regents from issuing an opinion on the state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage? Is student government raising the academic standards in the classroom?

How would life be different for the average student at UW-Milwaukee if student government was abolished, other than their tuition bill would be cheaper without the extra segregated fees tacked on?

As for the absurd belief that this year or next year student government will be better, think how long ago I first called for the abolition of student government (1990). Every year since then student government has been about the same. So what do you have to lose?

Update! Jon Hayden (I think) at Fighting Phoenix depressess me with his belief that UW-Milwaukee’s student government will emerge stronger than ever. I don’t believe that to be the case, but then that’s not much of a goal to shoot for. What’s depressing to me is that he actually wants a stronger student government. He must like paying segregated fees.

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