Monday, December 5th, 2016

Those crazy kids

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You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You better free your mind instead

– Revolution, The Beatles

Students at UW-Madison are plotting revolution, ready to toss their student government. Jib at the Badger Blog Alliance asks for more perspectives from other students. The Badger Herald and the Daily Cardinal both weigh in support of tossing out the old government.

State statute 36.09(5) gives students at UW system schools rights under “shared governance” to form governments and basically rabble rouse against each other and tax the hell out of each other (segregated fees) for the benefit of whatever loosely organized group of students manages to take temporary control with the consent of seven or eight percent of the student body. That students should actually get “paid” for organizing student activities and for issuing proclamations about Peruvian politics would strike almost all of us as absolutely absurd, but I assure you it’s quite the norm, and it has been for some time.

I’ve been removed from student life and student government for nearly 15 years. I have bad news for those still in college. Nothing you are experiencing is new. Oh, don’t get me wrong. The faculty is even more radical than before, tuition is higher and the food they serve on campus is actually better (no, really, it is). But student government is still the same.

The year before I started at UW-Milwaukee, the student government there re-wrote the constitution. We made some radical changes while I was a student there, including allowing students to designate where their student fees should go. Right after I left, I believe student government changed the constitution again and impeached the student court.

During that period, students were getting paid thousands of dollars to serve in student government and other student activities. One student actually sat on the student government body that allocated fees to his student activity organization that paid him a salary. When that wasn’t enough graft, he started a student publication, became it’s advertising manager, had the student government body allocate money to start the student publication, had the student government body buy ads in the publication, paid himself a commission from those ads, had his student activity organization buy ads in his new publication, received a commission from those ads, and received a salary from the student government body, the student activity organization and the student publication. The story was he was reluctant to graduate because he would have to take a pay cut.

So quite frankly, I don’t want to hear about how bad student government is now.

I wish I was the first to coin the phrase, but one alumnus of UW-Milwaukee told me, “Never have so few fought so hard over so little.” It’s still true today. While students are fighting over their student government, the universities in the UW system continue to water down the curriculum and standards, raise tuition,create worthless academic departments in the name of multiculturalism (or whatever fad it is this year) and students get the shaft on their educations.

After four-plus years, students end up with an education they should’ve gotten in high school or a trade school.

If the students were serious about change, they would abolish student government. Abolish any student activity organization that pays money to the students running it. Have the referendum and I guarantee it would pass. Turn the keys over to the administrators, and be thankful that’s less money on the bottom line of the tuition bill.

Form ad-hoc committees issue by issue for dealing with the administration. If a student group came and actually had real proposals for the governance of the university the chancellor would probably faint.

Problems with the city? The city council is just as likely to listen to any group of fifty students organized on an issue as they are the student government. Maybe more so. Heck, no alderman wants fifty college kids showing up on election day to register to vote because they are ticked off. If they show up at his office first
he’ll probably (if reluctantly) listen.

I know that some college students think that their student government is the end of the world, and if the administration had it’s way every student on campus would have a curfew of 9:00pm and the bars would be closed. The truth is, college administrators are like every other bureaucrat, and the last thing they want is a noisy mob coming at them. Lucky for them they have state statute 36.09(5), and they can let those crazy kids yell at each other instead.

Update! The new “student government” has a website.

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