Thursday, April 27, 2006

Erick's Final Post

I feel silly responding to an anonymous hostile comment (the words "man up" come to mind), but I may as well take the opportunity to slap one more post up here.

The reason Student Government failed: only two of its six members truly believed in the idea of revolution. It was clear to me almost from the beginning that aside from Steve and myself, no one wanted to put forth the effort to make this thing happen. In hindsight, one could make the case that the majority of the group was using SG as a grandstanding tactic to further its ambitions within ASM. (Indeed, at least one writer for the Badger Herald is writing exactly that.)

But should the ending of this admittedly short lived movement be to the shame of those involved, and does its sudden crumbling reflect the dedication of those few of us who came together to try to change the campus for the better? Not really. Do Lapidus, Schulz, and Grosskopf believe that ASM direly needs change as they have claimed, and are they dedicated to shaking things up for the good of the students (as opposed to doing so just to get their names in the papers)? After many brainstorming and debating sessions with the lot of them, I do believe the answer is yes—indeed, of that I have no doubt.

At the same time, I remain of the opinion that any attempt at "reform from within" is fundamentally misguided. ASM needs a complete and total overhaul, and this is why.

A body of college students governing, in some sense, other students should have the ability to excite its constituents about its existence. Yet the demand for parkas in Hell will surge the day five randomly selected UW students can produce among them just one coherent response on what ASM actually does for the campus. In my time here, I've heard no positive things said of ASM outside of my acquaintances that have some direct stake in its existence--which suggests to me that its approval rating at any given time probably sits somewhere left of 1%.

In any case, I'll be here for two more years. If at some point a group of reasonable size is serious about shaking this dysfunctional system up, let me know.

In the meantime, however, I have more pressing things to worry about than the $150 of my pocket change ASM has the power allocate every year, and so do you.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

ASM dropping like a rock

This is an interesting catch: ASM is the second-most removed group or organization from Facebook profiles lately. Go figure.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Student Government can DoIT

Student Government laid the first three planks of its revolutionary platform today in the Badger Herald:
Student Government wants your input
Read, and please comment. That's what we're here for.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

“Not far -- Yoda not far. Patience, soon you will be with him!”

We’re channeling our energy into having productive strategy and writing sessions –- Student Government is getting down to business. Posting over the weekend will continue to be slow. We plan to enter the coming week with strength; on Monday you'll see [greatly anticipated] constructive content and ingenuity, and a game plan for what's left of the semester.

I have one request for those of you who seem to be used to Madison student politics traveling at light speed: patience. A blog is suspected dead when there hasn’t been a post in a day and a half? A "government" is based solely on pointing out the failures of its predecessor... when the committee to form it has only been together for nine days? “No lasting changes can be engineering so rapidly”, Mr. Riechers at the DC points out. Haste makes waste –- a thing Student Government is bitterly opposed to making. We will hustle in these last few weeks, but remember what this process needs to be based on: massive input. To be sure, the members of Student Government will to bring plenty to the table, but our own convictions should be –- and will be –- only half the story. And gathering input from a student body of some twenty odd thousand students takes time.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Today's newslinks on the election fiasco

Commission cancels ASM elections again (BH News)

In-Depth: The evolution of student government? (BH News)

Just can’t DoIT (BH Opinion)

ASM: Vote early, vote often (BH Opinion)

Computer woes delay ASM elections again (DC News)

Several allege wrongdoing in ASM elections (DC News)

Responses to come later in the day - Erick signing off..

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

ASM Spring Elections Cancelled for the SECOND Time!

The SEC cancelled ASM's spring elections for the second time tonight during an emergency meeting at the Red Gym. Further DoIT failure is being cited as the cause of cancellation. For the most recent coverage check out Brad Vogel's live posts over at Letters in Bottles.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Technological Innovation for Representation

Student Government is planning a cross-campus series of listening sessions that will serve as a starting point for writing UW-Madison’s next student government constitution. Of course, open forums are not gatherings meant to facilitate massive participation in the actual drafting process. Since the major tenet of this movement is that our student body direly needs a more participatory and transparent form of representation, it makes sense that we should push to directly include as many students as we can in this process. (It’s also the case that doing so would increase Student Government’s chance of success on its first try.) Online forums provide an easy way to allow for this type of participation.

The vision for online constitution construction goes something like this. Student Government puts up an online forum. What type of discussion board to use is the first issue to address; things to consider include consider cost, building and maintenance time, ease of moderation, and user-friendliness. Some examples of the major types of discussion boards are these (the obvious favorite), this (a mess, though it gets the job done), or the nerd standard (kidding); we could even use facebook’s message boards. I don’t have figures for cost and construction and maintenance time on-hand, but am sure suitable free software exists.

The next step is to post each article of the constitution's working draft to its own discussion board topic with a designated moderator. The structure of the whole forum is made to resemble that of the constitution itself. Whoever is responsible for moderating a topic redrafts and reposts the corresponding article after a sufficient amount of discussion has gone on, and the cycle continues until the participants reach some degree of mutual satisfaction. Deadlines are set to ensure the articles come together in a timely fashion.

I recognize at least one large pitfall in this method. I’ve had the chance to present this idea to a few people since first mulling it over with Steve on Sunday, but one individual's response struck me in particular: in order to use online forums as the constitution’s discussion venue, contributors have to spend an inordinate amount of time at their computers, constantly monitoring those parts in which they are vested. I was shocked to discover not everyone spends as much time as I do hunched over a computer; this is, however, a real issue.

In any case, Student Government should make it a major goal to effectively employ technology where and when it can in serving the student body. Let’s not just knock ASM for not having any real online presence; let’s go above and beyond to ensure there exists yet another option for direct participation. Suggestions or counterproposals to my specifics are welcome and desired.