Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"Allowable Increase" misses the point.

Our fine campus newspapers have pointed out that the Senate Finance Committee has graciously chosen to raise Segregated Fee money (that is, money that we pay along with our tuition that goes for student organization and activity expenses) in an amount less than what is the allowable maximum. While this demonstrates amazing restraint on the part of the SFC, it represents an endemic problem on this campus.

The problem is that the people who get to choose how much of our money they take from us seem to believe that since a certain increase is allowable, it is therefore "gracious" of them if they don't stick us with the maximum hit. Most of the extra money was sucked up by the U-Pass increase, but even so, aren't we taking enough of a hit from tuition increases? It shouldn't be too big of a leap of logic to conclude that maybe keeping the student portion down is a good idea, but what do I know?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Holidays Have Names

In the parlance of the day, we are now officially into the "Holiday Season." People greet each other with such amorphous greetings as "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" to the point where it is almost impossible to make out the individual holidays underneath. If you are one of these people, here is a brief introduction to the holidays involved:

This is the one that just passed. The proclamation that authorizes it each year encourages us to give thanks to God for the many blessings of the past year. You may have heard stories about Pilgrims from England and Native Americans coming together for a feast in the early days of Plymouth Colony. That much is true. Investigate the rest carefully on your own.

Oh, if Benjamin Franklin had been in charge of the national mascot, we'd have a turkey on our Great Seal and serve bald eagle for Thanksgiving.

Hannukah (or however it's spelled this year)
This is a celebration of a miracle of Jewish deliverance. God allowed a small supply of oil to last for eight days in a time of need.

Some people try to integrate Hannukah and Christmas, but that makes everyone who tries look silly. If you're a practicing Jew, I expect to see a menorah (the candleholder that commemorates the eight-day affair) in your house, not a Christmas tree cleverly disguised as a "Hannukah Bush".

This is when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Christ. (Christ is a title, synonymous with Messiah, and it was not his last name.) If you aren't a Christian, you can do what you want on that day, just leave us alone and let us celebrate. Like any tradition, there have been a few things added over the years that have little bearing to the original meaning, such as Christmas trees, wreaths, and eggnog. Even the date was chosen for political reasons (see Kwanzaa, below for more details).

There are plenty of non-religious items attached to this religious holiday, so if you want to celebrate just because we Christians are, you can attach yourself to them. Just bear in mind that we who are Christians have a specific purpose to our celebration. A spirit of toleration is in order here: I won't care if you don't pray on December 25th as long as you don't care if I do.

This is an attempt to instill African heritage into people who have been removed from their African roots. The dates are chosen specifically to overlap the time from Christmas to New Year's Day. I have no problem with that, given that the date for the Christmas Feast was specifically chosen to coincide with the Roman Saturnalia celebration.

New Year's Day
This has become less of a celebration in favor of New Year's Eve, during which people choose to stay up all night drinking so they don't feel ashamed kissing the nearest member of the opposite sex when the new year finally arrives at midnight. Also, people "resolve" to do things during the next year, such as giving up drinking, that never actually get completed.

The holidays have names. Please do everyone a favor and use them whenever appropriate.

[On a personal note, I don't believe in wishing anyone "Season's Greetings". The season is winter, and what winter greets you with is snow and bitter cold. Why would I wish that on anyone?]

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

PantherPrint -- Stirring an old hornets' nest

A bit of history for the newer students here at UWM:

Once upon a time, there was a time when students could print "for free" in the I&MT computer labs. To be honest, anyone with a valid PantherID could print, as there was no card reader attached to the printer.

However, like every other service here on campus, it was doomed. Although there is a technology fee assessed as part of tuition, apparently nobody thought to apply part of it to cover the printing costs. So this cost recovery system known as PantherPrint came into being. (Ever notice how things supposedly become cool if they make reference to the school mascot, such as PantherPrint and PantherProf?)

The response at the time was that the Education Technology Fee didn't cover printing costs. However, as is documented at https://www3.uwm.edu/imt/services/campus/printing/questions.cfm, Education Technology fees are used to subsidize the printing cost in part. (That's supposedly why we pay 6 cents per sheet instead of 8 cents.)

I appreciate the efforts of the students who worked hard to ease the burden this imposes on the entire student body. But there are still several questions that have yet to be answered. Why can't we just add a bit to the Education Technology Fee and print what we need? What are students who are barely scraping by financially and have no print access by other means supposed to do when their professors assign large papers? Or the others that expect that their mountain of e-reserve reading be brought into class for discussion? Students should never have to choose between printing necessary class materials and paying bills.

There are some who would see an issue regarding high-volume users printing large numbers of documents for personal use. If that proved to be a problem, that could easily be solved. Assume that an average student prints 100 pages a semester for school work, for example. Give each student a card at the start of the semester to cover that amount, and those who exceed the print limit can pay for any excess. If a professor needs to have extra pages printed by each student, have an additional print card with enough credit to cover the costs available.

We who have been here before will not forget. Neither should you.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The One Problem I Have With Smoking Bans (and the like)

The latest issue of The Leader brings up the issue of whether the Chancellor will uphold the recommendations of the Physical Environment Committee on campus and restrict smoking access in the Union. This is all well and good except for one thing: We, the students of UWM, pay for the maintenance of the Union through Segregated Fees. As a result, it should be expected that we would be able to make the decisions for this building.

As the article pointed out, there was no real input from the students before this decision was made. This is a common theme around here, and we cannot let it continue. Personally, I don't smoke, and any decision to ban smoking in the Union will not affect me in the slightest, but the decision should be made by us, not by random officials who rarely visit the Union.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

We're still watching...

The past year's elections for Student Association President, Vice President and Senate were, to put it mildly, a disaster. Charges of questionable campaign practices and of bias on the part of officials who are supposed to be independent observers of the process have led to one of the more screwed-up situations in recent memory. (Yes, this is even worse than the situation in April 2004, where the election was nearly thrown out because it was held over Passover, denying the Orthodox Jewish students a chance to participate.)

In theory, this was supposed to be fixed by an independent commission whose job it would be to fix the mistakes of the past two years, but as of today, this has not happened. The integrity and sanctity of this process need to be protected.

I for one am willing to wait to see whether this process actually takes place, and if so, what results come from it. I will keep people posted.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Senate Bill 329 -- The Catch-22 that may catch you!

There is a bill going through the Wisconsin legislature that would defeat the purpose of building extra parking spaces on campus. The text of this bill follows, with my explanatory comments:

The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do enact as follows:

Section 1.
349.13 (1k) of the statutes is created to read:

349.13 (1k) (a) As provided in par. (b), a local authority, with respect to highways under its jurisdiction including connecting highways within corporate limits, may authorize persons whose residences abut a highway in a zone where parking is prohibited by official signs, guests of such person, and commercial enterprises providing services to such persons to park their vehicles in the highway zone without regard to the posted prohibitions. [In other words, if the provisions below are met, a local authority (city, village or town) can make an exception to local parking prohibitions for area residents, guests of residents, and business entities in the area.]

(b) If a University of Wisconsin System college campus located in a 1st class city [note, there is only one "1st class city" in the state of Wisconsin, namely Milwaukee] creates 721 parking spaces on campus [which, amazingly enough, is the exact size of the Klotsche parking structure], a 1st class city may initiate a program to reserve 721 parking spaces for persons who residences are adjacent to the University of Wisconsin System college campus, guests of such persons, and commercial enterprises providing services to such persons. [In short, the gains that UWM intended to make by providing extra parking at Klotsche could be canceled by reserving an equal number of near-campus parking spaces for residents, guests and businesses.] If a University of Wisconsin System college campus located in a 1st class city creates additional parking spaces on campus, a 1st class city may reserve an equal number of parking spaces for persons whose residences are adjacent to the University of Wisconsin System college campus, guests of such persons, and commercial enterprises providing services to such persons. [So the city of Milwaukee would not only be able to cancel the effect of the current Klotsche parking garage, but also every future parking structure that UWM may choose to build.]

This denial of access to campus cannot be tolerated. Wisconsin lawmakers need to be informed of the horrors of trying to find a place to park now and how such a disastrous bill would only make things worse. The primary business of Milwaukee's East Side is the university; making it impossible to get there will only stagnate the area.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Union Counting Day

If you came into the Union today, you probably saw the random flunkies posted near the door. Why are they there? To count you!

Every year, on the third Tuesday of November, the Union staff hires a bunch of minimum wage flunkies to assist the rest of their flunkies in counting how many people enter the Union through each of its access doors. This is fine in general, but the process is horribly flawed and cumbersome. Why are we continuing to pay for this?

There is one person assigned to each door at any given time. This means that someone who needs to take a bathroom or lunch break must get someone to cover the door, leave the door unattended (and thus uncounted), or worse. I know for a fact that the 3rd Floor entrance door that enters the Student Organization wing near Union 381 was unattended at 1:30 p.m. (I left from that door), only to find two of the Rent-a-Temps on an extended lunch break at City Subs. (I was counted coming back into the Union near Burger King -- I think.)

I know someone who was hired for this two years ago, and he told me that when a large mass of people comes through the assigned door at one time, the temps are supposed to do an "amazingly accurate survey of the number of that group" known as guessing. The real number doesn't matter, he was told, as long as it's close. At the time, he was apparently considered so skilled at this task that he was assigned two doors at once (the one near Burger King and the other one near City Subs). With one clicker in each hand, he had the amazing task of directing his eyes toward two different targets, each of which required precise guesswork to count. He doesn't remember how many times he hit the wrong counter, but they may have balanced out.

The brief survey I did this year indicates that, as far as I saw, each person had only one door this time. But just think about how dull this work is! Sitting at a table (if you're lucky), watching one door and counting off the people as they enter is not my idea of work that inspires mental acuity. Don't we see movies and commercials about people who count sheep to fall asleep??? After about an hour of this, I'd be ready to confess to crimes I never committed, if it meant not having to fill the remaining seven hours of drudgery awaiting me.

Oh, just because these people are being paid minimum wage doesn't mean that UWM is getting them cheap. These workers are being hired through an agency that charges far more than the minimum wage and keeps the difference. If this work is really that necessary, isn't it cheaper to find a few students who have nothing better to do and pay them a decent wage for a few hours to get it done? This would waste less, and if the shifts were small enough, might actually yield better results.

We need to count at UWM, not be counted.

Make the Chancellor Listen!

There is talk that the Chancellor may not fill the position formerly held by Mary Roggeman, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. In fact, the entire department may be phased out. This is unfortunate, as this department is the most direct link between students and the administration.

The Student Association, in Union 363, is organizing a petition demanding that the Chancellor retain this vital department. We encourage everyone to sign up.

Big Changes Ahead? Only if we don't stop them!

It has come to the attention of the Well Armed Sheep that there is dissatisfaction among the administration types over the functioning of certain Union entities, such as Reservations & Event Planning. Apparently, the idea of the Student Union building providing free rooms for Registered Student Organizations is too much for these "profit before people" hacks to handle. So the goal is to eventually eliminate this service. Of course, considering that the going rate for even the smallest of these conference rooms is $130.00 per day, this would effectively drive registered student organizations out of the Union that is paid for with their own segregated fees. This is the first of many examples of the shepherds of this university failing to protect us.

What is Well Armed Sheep?

Democracy is three wolves and a sheep voting on dinner. Liberty is a well armed sheep contesting the result.

The Well Armed Sheep is your one-stop center for news about how the liberties of the students at UW-Milwaukee are eroding before our eyes. We encourage our readers to fight these abuses in any legal way they can. Give us your reports and your success stories.