Wednesday, December 06, 2006

So now they want to play by the rules -- sort of

The Student Association Senate has scheduled another meeting to replace the one they couldn't hold due to lack of quorum. Here is the relevant text of the notice:

The Student Association of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
DATE: Sunday, December 10th, 2006
TIME: 6:00pm
UWM Union Ballroom
2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Agenda First Available on Friday, December 8th, 2006
By emailing:
All meetings are open to the general public.
The senate may go into closed session pursuant to Wisconsin State Statute 19.85(1-6)
According to SA Senate Bylaws Article II Section VI, an
Emergency meeting must be held when requested by 5 senators.
"Emergency meetings shall be for the sole purpose of approving SFC or SAC actions..."

In another world, we could just accept this as is and move on. But in the world we have seen so far, it makes sense to post the section of the Senate Bylaws relevant to this situation, namely Article II, Section VI:
Article II -- Meetings
Section 6 -- Emergency Senate Meetings (for those of you following with your own copy of the Senate Bylaws, it's the second Section 6 -- i.e. the one after the Section 6 dealing with the State of the Students Address)
a. Emergency Senate meetings shall be called by the Speaker of the Senate or by the request of 5 senators, in writing, to the Speaker.

b. The agenda shall be written by the Executive Committee.

c. No senator shall be penalized for absences during emergency meetings.

d. There must be at least 48 hours between the time the meeting is called and the meeting itself.

e. Quorum shall consist of 40% of Senate Seats filled.

f. Emergency Senate meetings shall be for the sole purpose of approving SFC or SAC actions or taking up items requiring Senate action due to timelines outside the control of the Student Association.

So, when the meeting in the garage was to be held, it was for "items requiring Senate action due to timelines outside the control of the Student Association" clause that doesn't appear on the notice. Yet, here, the implication of the notice as written is that this clause doesn't exist.

If you want to be around when the Executive Committee creates this agenda, that will be on December 7 (i.e. tomorrow as I write this) at 3:30 p.m. in EG79I, 16 minutes after the Shared Governance meeting. Either there are so few items being covered by Shared Governance that their meeting will be extremely short, or the Executive Committee will have to set the agenda without the input of the Shared Governance Director.

But the big question is this: Why should all the other items wait until the next regular meeting? The only reason they weren't discussed was there was a lack of quorum, and the number who did show up (12) isn't enough for quorum even for an Emergency meeting (16).

As for timeline issues, the Election Commission Formation Act becomes nearly meaningless if not passed now. The Concurrent Service Act can possibly wait, but why should it? The Student Association Senator Award Act could run into problems if its failure to be addressed removes a senator who would have been eligible to remain had it passed. There are constituencies who would argue that these and other measures need to be addressed sooner if not later. Why create a notice that precludes them?

Monday, December 04, 2006

No Quorum, what now?

In the fine tradition of the Student Association Senate, the meeting scheduled for December 3 could not be held due to lack of quorum. Normally, this doesn't happen until near the end of the school year, when one controversy or another keeps a large block of senators away, but this time it's happening in December.

Here is the agenda listed for that meeting; what could have kept them away this time? Could it have been the proposal that would finally resolve the separation of powers? The Concurrent Service Act would amend the Senate Bylaws, Article VII, Section 1(f) to read: "Senators may not concurrently serve as a member of the Presidential Cabinet or as a Student Court Justice. The Presidential Cabinet shall be defined to include the following positions: President, Vice President, Chief of Staff, Treasurer, Academic Affairs Director, Shared Governance Director, and Legislative Affairs Director. The Vice President will retain his right to cast the tie-breaking vote in the senate as defined in Article V Section 6(a) of the SA Constitution." This would keep some people out of concurrent service, but there are some notable exceptions, such as the Secretary and the other Directors not specifically named above. But there is another problem that the legislation as written does not address. What happens if a shady SA President decides to have the same types of offices but call them different names?

Maybe the item that kept senators away was the Nursing Mothers Protection Act. This would guarantee the rights of women who choose to breastfeed their children to do so anywhere where the woman and her child are otherwise allowed to be. This came about as a result of the previous senate meeting, where a provision to ask the Union Policy Board to change one of their policies was justified by "inappropriate breastfeeding" in a Union office, among other things.

Could it have been the Students Vote Act of 2006? That would have directed the Vice President or designee to work with the City of Milwaukee Election Commission to adopting a campus polling place in the next election cycle to be staffed primarily by student volunteers and to investigate the lack of ballots during the last election. That doesn't seem too controversial, so I wouldn't expect that to be the problem.

Also on the agenda, we had the Election Commission Formation Act of 2006. This would require the formation of an Independent Election Commission by the start of spring 2006, "appointed by a special election committee, consisting of two persons from each party or independent candidate in the last election and/or representing student organizations on campus", not to include current or former members of SA government or any former IEC member. It would also change the name to Independent Student Association Process Committee and require that the Dean of Students or another administrative representative be present for all vote counting. Given the general reluctance to appoint an Independent Elections Commissioner, that may be what kept people away, but we'll see.

Then there is the last issue on the listed agenda (i.e. the one sent out by e-mail), the Student Association Senator Award Act. This would change one rule in the Senate Bylaws [Article IV, Section 1(d)] and remove 4 demerit points for being "present and not late or leaving early at a Senate meeting" instead of the -1 listed. Note that this rule is in the Senate Bylaws, so it would need to be passed as a Bylaws change and thus take a 2/3 vote.

Even so, this would cheapen the system as it stands. First, you need 12 demerit points (or miss three consecutive Senate meetings) to be removed from office. Second, if you inform people ahead of time of your absence, you only accumulate two per meeting, not four. Third, you only get to remove demerits if you have accumulated them in the first place. So this measure, if passed, would allow a person to miss two meetings with notification, then attend one all the way through and have the exact same demerit record as someone with perfect attendance. This is ludicrous.

Apparently the meeting will be rescheduled for December 10, same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel. Let's just hope it isn't the same Bat-Result.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Wondering about Senate Agenda

At the last Constituent Services Forum, it was indicated that there would be a streamlined process for getting the agenda for upcoming Senate meetings. As of now, this has yet to be implemented.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's back...

I wish to thank the good people in the Legislative Affairs department for getting the SA Constitution back online. In an era of distrust and suspicion, it's good to see something being done correctly.

On another note, someone pointed out that another missing face appeared here.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Coming off the milk carton

SA Thanksgiving Photo

This was found in a Facebook folder of an event with all of the top SA officials. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Restructuring the Division of Student Affairs?

I have come across a draft of a letter intended to be sent to Provost Rita Cheng, among others by Student Association President Samantha Prahl:
November 20, 2006

Dear Provost Cheng,

It has been brought to my attention, via a forwarded email, that the University has established plans to restructure the Division of Student Affairs. The students were never made aware of such endeavors. "As active participants, there must be a meaningful opportunity for input so that student ideas are received and considered before decisions have been made and the meaningful opportunity must include timely notice to students of pending issues concerning immediate governance and policy development of the institutions." Regent Policy 86-4.

It is the position of the students that the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee Administration is in violation of both the letter and the spirit of Wisconsin Statute 36.09 in regards to the restructuring of the Division of Student Affairs and we request immediate relief from the Office of the Chancellor under Regent Policy 86-4. It is our belief that the Chancellor has vested you, as Provost, with the responsibility to review this matter per [Wisconsin Statue] 36.09(3)(b).

The fundamental thrust of 36.09(5) is to ensure that students are "viable participants in university affairs." Regent Policy 86-4. The most minimal standards of compliance under 36.09(5) and Regent Policy 86-4 have not been met. An elementary reading of the Statutes and Regent Policy affirms this position.

I look forward to working with you to remedy this most troubling situation. Wi will await your reply.


Samantha R. Prahl
UWM Student Association

CC: Chancellor Santiago
Interim Vice Chancellor Hill
Student Association Senate

As this is a draft copy, I have no idea how the final presentation will be laid out. However, I do support the effort being made.

The pull quotes from Regent Policy 86-4 are accurate. The text can be found here, although it begins at Page 85 of that document. This is also the place where it states that any irreconcilable difference in the interpretation of 36.09(5) may be taken to the Board of Regents through the UW-System President.

The reference to Provost Cheng being in charge of this is based on Wisconsin Statute 36.09(3)(b):
The chancellor may designate a person as provost, to act as chief executive officer of the institution in the chancellor's absence, if the person currently holds a limited appointment as vice chancellor, associate chancellor, assistant chancellor, associate vice chancellor or assistant vice chancellor. The chancellor may not create an additional administrative position for the purpose of this paragraph.

As the Chancellor is recovering from surgery at the moment, this qualifies as an absence during which the Provost acts as chief executive officer.

This news is troubling at this time because the University is currently reviewing candidates for Assistant Chancellor for Student Affairs. If this restructuring takes place, it will have been done prior to the new Assistant Chancellor's selection. Also, unless action is taken immediately, it will have been done without the meaningful opportunity for students to have input on this matter.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

What are you guarding?

I am taking a bit of a leave from my standard fare to explore part of the philosophy of Well Armed Sheep and my take on it. It deals with what I consider the role of this weblog to be. I will begin, though, with a few hypothetical situations.

Suppose you are trying desperately to get one of the new video game systems out there (you know, whatever the hot new thing is out there that they only make about 100,000 of even though about 100 times as many people will want it as soon as it comes out and you get people willing to pay 5-10 times retail for it on Ebay). You have a friend who works in a store that's selling them. Do you ask your friend to hold one for you? If the friend offers to hold one for you, do you accept? What if the friend asks for money to hold it for you?

You are trying to get a law passed. Everything is written, passed, goes through the proper channels and spurs a lively debate on the floor, but it is destined to fail for lack of support. Does this bolster your confidence in the government or undermine it? What if a key opponent offers to let it through in exchange for something else?

I could bring up more of these, but the point I am trying to make here is one of choices that we all must make from time to time. I see many decisions as being made based on one is a guardian of results or of process. I believe that there are times when being a guardian of results is the best course of action, whereas other times being a guardian of process is correct, but the overall balance for me weighs in favor of process. And that is what this weblog is geared toward: guarding the process of student government from abuse by those who are too focused on results.

A person who acts as mostly a guardian of results often appears to me to be one who lacks conviction and principles. I see it as a willingness to change the rules to suit one's own desires at the time. When a group gains power by challenging the corruption of others but tolerates the same or worse among its own members, I see them as guarding results over process, and that frightens me.

This means that, in most cases, I believe a good process is better than a favorable result. If the process is upheld but the particular decision goes against me, so be it. Now there are times when the process itself is bad, and as such, bypassing it may be for the best for everyone. I don't have a problem with that, so long as this becomes a catalyst for fixing the process. Without that balance, the possibility of abuse and favoritism is too great, and everything falls apart.

With that in mind, let me make it clear that I don't believe that student government should be abolished. Rather, the processes that are being abused need to be fixed, and those who are abusing them need to be taken to task for them. I don't mind rules that create restrictions, as long as they apply to everyone; for if the rules prove too abusive, the fact that they are universally applied will cause them to become unpopular and thus worthy of change.

I am starting to hear more people who agree with this concept. Welcome aboard!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Conspiracy theorists...

I received the following as a comment about a previous note:
For your information, the SA website was hacked and deleted last week, probably by someone friendly with you or one of the anti-SA Facebook groups. There was a backup of many of the files, but not of the Constitution, among others. Please cease your conspiracy theorism.

Fascinating. Since my comment about it was so brief, here's a full reprint of what I had to say about the missing Constitution:
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
SA Constitution missing from website.

This may not mean anything, but the link that normally connects you from the SA website to the online version of the SA Constitution is not working right now. For those who wish to try it:

We'll see what comes of it

To be honest, I don't see how that is expounding on a conspiracy theory. I am simply pointing out that an online tool that I use frequently is no longer available. If anyone wishes to explain what this means (I would ask the person directly but he or she has chosen to reply anonymously), please do so.

I would, however, like to address the comment directly. Beginning at the beginning, "For your information, the SA website was hacked and deleted last week, probably by someone friendly with you or one of the anti-SA Facebook groups." I'm not sure when this deletion occurred, as I don't usually monitor the SA website except when writing for an article or explaining the information to others when I happen to be near a computer. But nevertheless, it would be a simple enough matter to replace, would it not? There clearly is a previous version available that could be modified to reflect changes. If modifying a PDF is too much, it is also found as a Word document through simple searches. If all these failed, it would be a reasonable use of office time and office staff to get someone to take an electronic copy of the current Constitution (which must exist somewhere within SA) and link it into the site, or at the very least get a paper copy from somewhere (even the administration if necessary) and have someone type it in. So the idea that this information has been missing from the site for at least 36 hours shows some degree of either indifference or incompetence.

But as someone who uses the information posted on the SA websites, why would I want to see it removed? The people I have met who are fighting against SA are seeking more transparency and information from SA, not less. Such a move is detrimental to the process. Is our anonymous poster trying to say that I believe that the information is being removed specifically to prevent people like me from using it against SA? Let's just say that if that were true, there would be a lot more missing than just the Constitution.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Rueden in Senate Appropriations?

Senate Appropriations Summary
This is another document from the Student Association records. This one is amazing for two reasons. The first is that it represents the exact amount that appeared on Russ Rueden's time card for August 2006 (the one where he claimed to work ten days over the summer from midnight to noon). The second is the heading "Senate Appropriations Committee." The only association that the Speaker of the Senate has is to chair the meeting at which SAC elects its chair. So what is he doing being paid out of this account?

SA Constitution missing from website.

This may not mean anything, but the link that normally connects you from the SA website to the online version of the SA Constitution is not working right now. For those who wish to try it:

We'll see what comes of it

The Original Separation of Powers

Through my sources, I have obtained a copy of the original documents relating to the separation of powers. Note that Russ Rueden was arguing for the separation of powers at this time.

I did not get these from Ray Duncan himself, but rather from one of the people he chose to distribute this to initially.

These are copies of files that are on the hard drive, but do not exist in a
"document" form. It was very hard to get.

Please widely distribute.

Raymond Duncan

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee


Acting under the authority granted in Section 4.3 of the University Student Court Bylaws, I hereby grant Speaker of the Senate, Clayton E. Clouse's request for a Temporary Restraining Order and Injunction.

This Order restrains all individuals in violation of the Court Order in Michals v. Clouse from functioning within the Student Association government. Individuals in violation must choose to serve on a single Branch of SA and to vacate their remaining office(s).

Individuals in violation of the Order in Michals v. Clouse that fail to choose by 4:30 PM on Sunday, September 12, 2004 to serve on a single Branch of SA are in violation of the Court Order thus illegally occupying their offices. At 4:30 PM on Sunday, September 12, 2004, members that have not complied with the Court Order in Michals v. Clouse will have all of their positions vacated, their titles in SA stripped of them, access to their office denied, and their pay suspended. In short, individuals that fail to comply will have all of their positions in SA vacated and all of their rights and privileges of those positions denied.

There will be a hearing on Monday, September 13, 2004 at 4:00 PM before a 2/3 majority of the Court to discuss the Continuance and/or Validity of this Order. The location of the meeting will be posted outside of Union Room 392 at least four hours before the hearing time.

On this 12th Day of September 2004,

It Is So Ordered.

Russell E. Rueden
Chief Justice

University Student Court
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

Senator Neal A. Michals, Student Association Senator and Shared Governance


Speaker Clayton Clouse, Speaker of the Student Association Senate

Released Thursday, September 2, 2004.

Heard Before: Justices Rueden, Zahn-Craig, and Frank.

Introduction - Student's Self Governance

The Court acts as the guardian of the Constitution and the protector of all things just within the Student Body. The bylaws passed by the Student Association (SA) Senate and signed by our SA President grant us final authority in interpreting the governing documents that direct our student government. As the final student interpretive authority, it is important that we recognize the right of self governance. All matters heard before the Court have been dealt with exclusively by students, as demanded by Wisconsin State Statute 36.09(5), "The students of each institution or campus shall have the right to organize themselves in a manner they determine and to select their representatives to participate in institutional governance."

State law allows the students to form a government of their choosing. The students chose to create the Court and give us final interpretive authority: Section 3.2 of the Court bylaws: "The USC shall be the final source in all matters concerning the
interpretation of the Student Association's Constitution and its legislation."

The Court's decisions are therefore final in matters involving student governance. To stray from this destroys shared governance and ignores the will of the students that we are all here to represent.

Case Before the Court

This case began as the result of an election held during the Senate meeting on Sunday, June 6, 2004. The election was for the two Senate seats on Union Policy Board, a board that formulates policies for the UWM Union. Three individuals ran for two spots. Senator Robert Schuettpelz won with 12 votes. Senator Neal Michals and Senator Christopher Vega tied with 10 votes each. The (SA) Secretary, Ms. Scottie Allen, was not allowed to vote in this election as she was deemed an ex-officio member of the Senate by Speaker Clayton Clouse. The issue before the Court is whether or not Ms. Allen should have been allowed to vote, as she holds both the SA Secretary position and the position of Senator.

Issues in this Case

This case asks us to look at four particular areas of conflict.

The first area of conflict is whether or not an ex-officio member is allowed to vote. The current governing documents are silent as to whether they can or cannot vote. Therefore, in the absence of any guidelines, the governing documents tell us to look to Robert's Rules for clarification (Article II, Subsection A of the SA Senate Bylaws). It is clear in Robert's Rules that ex-officio members are allowed to vote (Article IX, Section 51 of Robert's Rules).

The second area of conflict is the question of holding dual roles within the Student Association. It is clear within the governing documents that the Student Association and the students at-large are looking to maintain a three branch government with a complete system of checks and balances. This is evident in the President's veto power (Article V, Section 5, Subsection C of the SA Constitution), the Senate's abilities to formulate legislation and over-ride a veto (Article IV, Section 8, Subsections D and F of the SA Constitution), the President's ability to appoint Court Justices with 2/3 consent of the Senate (Article V, Section 5, Subsection B of the SA Constitution), and so on.

The Student Association's attempts at forming "a more perfect student government (SA Constitution Preamble)," are being bastardized by the current administration in that many of the Directors are concurrently serving as Senators. This inevitably causes a great deal of conflict. The potential level of corruption in a government of this nature is immense. The student body entrusts that a three branch government will aggressively and proactively check each of the other branches. This is simply not possible within the current Student Association. The Chief of Staff, who also serves as a Senator, is charged with oversight of the Directors, many of whom are also Senators. It would be very difficult for a Senator to voice the wants of their constiuents when their supervisor is sitting next to them voting another way. The current state of the Student Association, in regards to the integration of the Executive and Legislative Branches, is completely unacceptable. The students elect a President to be their voice and to "promote our general welfare (SA Constitution Preamble)." To stand idly by and allow no true check to exist is deeply upsetting and will not be tolerated by this Court.

The third conflict that exists is the level of privacy between the three branches. It is very difficult for the Senate to conduct investigations of the Executive Branch when they share the same office space. This once again brings about the potential for corruption and destroys the ideal government that the students expect. The Vice-President is in a unique position in that he is both a member of the Executive Branch as well as the Legislative. It is therefore difficult for that office to be shared as he can participate in the activities of both branches.

The final conflict was the issue of how the tie was to be broken between Senators Vega and Michals in aformentioned election. Senator Michals argued that there should have been a run-off election. Speaker Clouse argued that Vice-President Rodriguez has all tie breaking authority. In reviewing Article IV, Section 6, Subsection A of the SA Constitution, it is clear that the Vice-President does have all tie breaking authority.


The Court is appalled at the current level of integration amongst the branches of government. We therefore Order that any member of the Senate that currently holds any office within the Executive Branch choose which of those two offices they would like to occupy and to vacate the remaining office. This must be done within seven calendar days of the release of this opinion. The Vice-President is an exception to this rule, as he is Constitutionally mandated to be a member of the Senate and technically does not hold dual roles. The Court Parliamentarian is also exempt as this is a Constituionally mandated service of the Court.

We further order that ex-officio members are currently allowed to vote. This however, would not change the outcome, as Ms. Scottie Allen was acting as the Secretary during the meeting and is not allowed to hold dual roles. As such, she should not have been voting at the meeting as a Senator.

We let stand the decision of Speaker Clouse to recognize Ms. Allen solely as the SA Secretary.

We further order that the Union Policy Board immediately address the office allocation and see to it that the Legislative Branch has their own locking office.

We finally order that tie-breaking authority in the Senate falls solely upon the Vice-President in all cases, as directed by the SA Constitution. Therefore, the
decision of Speaker Clouse to allow the Vice-President to break the tie stands.

It is so Ordered.

Russ Rueden
Chief Justice

Jessicka Zahn-Craig
Assistant Chief Justice

Ryan Frank
Clerk of Court

This is the temporary restraining order followed by the actual court case filed to deal with separation of powers.

Student Association
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

Office of the President
President Brett P. Belden

Response to University Student Court Mandates in the Opinion of Michals v Clouse

On Thursday, September 2 at approximately 5:20 PM Chief Justice of the University Student Court Rueden issued an email release of the opinion of Justices Rueden, Frank and Zahn-Craig which stated that I, as President of the Student Association, am responsible for enforcing the Court's opinion in the matter of Michals v Clouse. For this reason, I am issuing the following public response to the University Student Court's orders.


First, I must address certain assumptions I am required to make in the interpretation of this court order. In reviewing the opinion of the Court, the only order I appear to have any direct impact on is the order of the Court for officers serving dual roles to choose one role within seven days of the release of the opinion and vacate the other role. Therefore, I will assume that this is the section of the opinion the Court states that I am responsible for enforcing and I will limit the scope of my response to this section. Furthermore, the Court has been unclear exactly how I am to address the issue of individuals who choose not to vacate one of their positions within the given time period. Again, the only power I myself would have to address this would be to remove the individuals from their Executive Branch positions, and thus I am forced to assume this is the intention of the Court's order.

With this being said, I would like to address the Court's contention that I have chosen "to stand idly by and allow no true check to exist." I have never disallowed checks and balances from existing in the Student Association as they are defined in the governing documents. In fact, I have never claimed that I am in favor of officers serving concurrently in more than one branch. The reality is, I do not have the power to impose a restriction on members of the Executive Staff that disallows them from serving on both the Legislative and Executive branches. Article VI, Section 1 of the Student Association Constitution states that "The Judicial Branch shall have a University Student Court, which shall have five justices. These Justices may not hold any other office in SA."

Clearly, the Legislature and students at large, in approving this Constitution, have defined this situation in which members of the Judicial Branch are restricted from holding offices in other branches. No such restriction exists in the Constitution for the Executive or Legislative branches; that is, no restriction has been approved by the Legislature and students at large to be included in the Constitution or any other governing document of the Student Association. Furthermore, precedent shows that Directors and other Executive Branch members have in the past served as Senators as well. Prior to the 2003-2004 session, Directors were actually placed under the Legislative Branch, and to my knowledge all of the Director positions were filled by Senators. With the bylaw changes that occurred at the beginning of the 2003-2004 session the Director positions were moved to the Executive Branch, but many Executive Staff members still served concurrently as Senators. Treasurer Ben Butz, Student
Organization Relations Director for the first semester Avigal Harris, Student Organization Relations Director for the second semester Robert Schuettpelz, who currently serves as a Senator, and Chief of Staff Clayton Clouse, who currently
serves as Speaker of the Senate, are all examples of individuals who served concurrently in both the Executive and Legislative branches in the previous
Student Association session. Considering these precedents and the fact that no Legislature-approved law exists prohibiting officers from serving dual roles, I
can only conclude that I do not have the power to disallow members of the Executive Staff from serving as Senators as well. To remove someone from their Executive position for serving concurrently as a Senator would make me vulnerable to very real legal action for unfair termination of employment, since I could site no rule currently in the governing documents as my reasoning.

Powers of the Judicial and Legislative Branches

Article IV, Section 8, Subsection (d) of the Student Association Constitution states that "The Senate shall formulate rules, regulations, and policies that govern the activities of SA." It goes on in Subsection (i) to state that "The Senate shall have the power to approve all SA By-Laws." This jurisdiction of the Court is in the interpretation of the governing documents of the Student Association. However, the effect of this opinion is to alter the governing documents of the Student Association, creating a rule where none exists in the Constitution. Clearly, Article IV, Section 8 of the Constitution reserves this power for the Legislative Branch, not the Judicial Branch. The Court uses the Preamble of the Constitution to impose its own opinion of what are appropriate checks and balances onto the Student Association. The Preamble reads, "We, the Students of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in order to form a more perfect Student Government; to ensure participation in Student Governance; and to promote our general welfare, do hereby establish this Constitution." In other words, in order to ensure a more perfect Student Government, we establish rules in the Constitution. Only the Legislative Branch has the authority granted in the Constitution to approve alterations to the rules and governing documents of the Student Association, and this ruling serves to take that power away from the Legislative Branch and give it to the three Justices who heard this case.
For me to take action against an officer serving dual roles citing only this Court opinion without the benefit of a legislature-approved rule change would again make me vulnerable to reprimand, not only on behalf of the affected officer, but also on behalf of the Senate for attempting to enforce a rule which the Senate did not approve.

Dual Roles in the Judicial Branch

I find it interesting that the Court is so appalled at the integration between branches considering its own Chief Justice is currently serving a potentially
disastrous dual role. Sandburg Halls Administrative Council (SHAC) is the second major governing body on campus. It is so important, in fact, that the 2003-2004 Student Association Senate passed a piece of legislation reaffirming its support of SHAC and acknowledging SHAC's authority in matters of residence life. This piece of legislation essentially reaffirmed SHAC as an extension of the Student Association in the shared governance process. The Chief Justice of the University Student Court currently is serving concurrently as the President, the head executive, of SHAC. The potential damage that could result from this dual role is certainly far worse than that of an individual serving in both the Executive Staff and Senate. What would happen should an individual who falls under the jurisdiction of SHAC be displeased with a decision made by the SHAC President and decide to turn to the University Student Court? Surely it would be difficult for that individual to find any sort of justice in the Court. Even if the Chief Justice were to recuse himself, the considerable influence he has as the head of the Judicial Branch would certainly affect the opinions of the Justices hearing the case.

Conclusion and Possible Remedy

In conclusion, the individuals affected by this opinion have been made aware of the Court's wishes, but I cannot personally take any action against the individuals who are serving in both the Executive and Legislative branches. I want to be absolutely clear that I am not purposely defying the Court, but rather I simply do not have the power to take any action without a specific clause prohibiting Executive Branch members from serving on other branches, as exists with the Judicial Branch. I leave it to the Senate to decide whether to pass a bylaw change implementing this restriction; I am most certainly not opposed to the discussion of a bylaw change, and I absolutely will do my best to enforce anything the Senate passes that is signed into law. I only ask that if the Senate considers the elimination of the dual roles that exist in the Student Association, it do so fairly and equitably, and address the dual roles which currently exist in all branches of the SA.

In service to the students of UWM,

Brett P. Belden
Student Association of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

This is then SA President Brett Belden's response. Notice that he is aware of Rueden's cozy relationship with the Sandburg Halls Administrative Council, and notes how such a problem can exist even outside the normal divisions of student government.

Again, please widely distrubute these. I will offer more comment when I have a chance to study these further.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Annual Tradition -- Union Counting Day

Once again today, the fine tradition of counting the students who enter the Union takes place. As I mentioned last year, this is a rather tedious process that would be useful if it were accurate, but when you get a mass of people coming in from various directions, you can never be truly accurate.

Once again, I call for people to determine if we need this service. If we don't, perhaps we can use the money for real student services.

Monday, November 13, 2006

SA Senate Meeting November 12: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It is good to see the Student Association Senate functioning in the expected manner again . . . or is it?

Six vacant Senate seats were filled, which is a good sign. Most of them, as expected, are people invested in the status quo, so the chances of radical change taking place are slim. In this case, however, the process as outlined appears to be working, so I am treating this as a net plus.

The proposed Student Court nominee was not taken up, as she was unable to attend. However, a new Shared Governance Director was appointed and confirmed: Brandon Decker. His confirmation places him in the list of people for whom the separation of powers, were it to be enforced, would be definitively forced to choose either his Senate seat or his new directorship.

Executive Order
This is an amazing loophole so large you can drive a herd of mastadons through it. The Order "ordered" Ms. Prahl to "use any and all private funds" to obtain legal counsel. By framing it as an executive action, it was packaged as a Special Order. The Senate Bylaws, Article II, Section 3d states that Private Account Expenditures are normally done by automatic consent, unless a senator objects, in which case it is pulled and moved to New Business. But it was framed as an Executive Order, which filed it under an executive action, not a Private Account Expenditure automatic consent item. This supposedly triggered Article II, Section 3g:
All executive actions to be included in Special Orders shall follow a specified procedure. The President shall report on the executive actions and upon the completion of the President's report, all items shall be included in t a consent item and approved at that time, unless a senator objects to an item. The Senate may overturn an executive action by a 2/3 majority vote.

By doing it this way, Article V, Section 3b of the Executive Bylaws, which states that "This $2000 [minimum amount in the account] shall be used only for emergency purposes, with approval of 2/3 of the Senate" was bypassed. So now, instead of it taking a 2/3 vote to approve the expenditure, it took a 2/3 vote to prevent the expenditure.

This creates a new potential avenue for exploitation: Fiat by executive action. The President could, if she were unscrupulous, simply decree her will by executive action, and dare the Senate to come up with the 2/3 necessary to overturn it. This would require a more independent Senate than what I have witnessed to date.

Separation of Powers at stalemate
Antwan Jones' Separation of Powers act failed, but the passages in the Senate Bylaws that prohibit senators from serving on the Cabinet are still there, with the dilatory motion to strike them tabled. The idea was that a compromise position was to be drafted, but we will see what compromise can be made.

Senate Finance Committee bylaws approved
The Senate Finance Committee Bylaws were approved. One of the more interesting elements of this process is that it became clear that the senators who sit on SFC don't get to draft them. Rather, they are created by another body who forwards them to University Legal to insure that state laws are being followed, and then they are sent to the full Senate for approval by a 2/3 vote. The problem is that there are 13 members of SFC, including the Vice President, so it is possible for every member of SFC to vote against the bylaws but still have them approved, forcing the people who voted against the bylaws to operate under them.

Ban on breastfeeding in Union offices?
When the "Registered Student Organization Rights Act of 2006" came up for a vote, one of its authors, Senator Dan Bahr, lobbied for it by saying he had passed by one of the University offices and saw a topless woman breastfeeding her child there. This, plus other unspecified inapporpriate activity, was the reason that he wanted the Senate to recommend that the Union Policy Board change its policy on student organization membership and adda clarifying passage that Union offices are intended to be used for administrative purposes only. I will not comment on what Mr. Bahr thought he was doing by peering into Union offices not his own. Instead, I will focus on more salient points. Why even bring this up before the Senate? The other author of this legislation was Robert Stueber, the current chair of the Union Policy Board, and Senator Russel Scott is the UPB vice-chair. Are they so impotent within their board that they could not have brought this matter to the UPB themselves? The document that is being recommended for change is the Student Organization Manual, which is a publication of the Student Activities Office, not the UPB, and does not derive its material from the UPB, so how do the authors and sponsors intend to affect anything by asking the UPB to do anything? In addition, the University Student Court has ruled that the UPB is not a part of Student Association, so what benefit is gained by having the Student Association Senate express their opinion? And while Mr. Bahr in the Q&A session expressed that it was not the intention of the legislation to ban advisors, checking of e-mail or Facebook, other standard uses of the office, enforcement of this policy would not fall to him, but to the UPB, of which he is not a member. This matter passed the Senate and we will see if the UPB chooses to do anything about it.

Overall, procedures were followed (maybe not the correct ones in all cases, but at least they were documented), and the usual pile of legislation got through. But the fact that a new loophole has been created and exploited is ugly, and needs to be dealt with.

More Financial Irregularities

The following was forwarded to me anonymously:

Have you seen this e-mail?

Dear Senators:

As you may know, the UWM Internal Audit Department, in collaboration with the UW System Office of Operation Review and Audit, is presently conducting an audit of the UWM Student Association financial records. While the audit is not complete, we have discovered several irregularities that will require some additional explanation. I will be asking your President, Vice President, and Treasurer to meet with me in person as soon as possible to discuss these issues. In addition, if any of you has any information about SA financial matters that you think is relevant to the audit, please contact me.


Paul W. Rediske
Director of Internal Audit
P.O. Box 413
Milwaukee, WI 53201

We will keep you informed of any developments as we get them.

For those of you who are waiting for news from the Senate meeting on November 12, I will post that when I get the chance. There is much to say.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dilatory motion detected

I am posting a message from Jacob Wu, a former SA Senator who ran against Russ Rueden for President in April 2005:

I wanted to make you aware, before the meeting, that at least one motion in New Business for today's meeting is dilatory, out of order and should be removed from the agenda. Senator Bahr and Scott's legislation titled "Student Association Senators Right to Serve Act" is the motion in question. Since our rules on what motions are out of order come from Robert's Rules or Order 10th Edition (I will refer to it as RR from now on) I will provide you those references.

If you look at your chart of motions in the back of RR you will see that "Student Association Senators Right to Serve Act" is a motion to "Amend bylaws or constitution" and is classified "M/B" (Page 10 of the "Chart for determining when each subsidiary or privileged motion is in order", number 16). You can find rules about this class on page 72 starting at line 10 "Motions that bring a question again before the assembly." Now, Bahr and Scott's last piece of legislation titled "SA Senate Bylaw Revision" did essentially the same thing as their new legislation in that it attempted to remove Article VII Section 1 parts (f)(g) from the Senate Bylaws. According to RR on page 72 starting on line 29:

a)During the meeting or series of connected meetings (called a "session") in which the assembly has decided a question, the same or substantially the same question cannot be brought up again, except through special procedures that imply an unusual circumstance.

Since the Senate meets in a series of connected meetings this legislation is out of order until the next session (2007-2008) of the Senate and thus should not be considered and should be removed from the agenda. To reconsider the old legislation ("SA Senate Bylaw Revision") one of the Senate members that voted for its defeat (a nay voter) would have to motion to reconsider. This is in keeping with the rules of a motion to reconsider for a M/B classed motion.

Thank you,
Jacob Wu
L&S Student, UWM

Part of the goal of Well Armed Sheep is to report events so that those who can spot something funny can pass the information onto others. I wish to thank Jacob for his timely catch.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Senate Agenda for November 12, with commentary

I have now linked to the Student Association Senate agenda for their November 12 meeting. I would like to point out a few items worthy of commentary.

Executive Order 0607-001
The action line of this Executive Order is a cut-and-paste from the Financial Accountability Act of 2006:
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the Student Association order the President to use any and all private funds to ensure that we effectively address the constitutional crisis that our government has faced in the past weeks and to seek the necessary legal counsel to ensure that the right of UW-M students to govern themselves without administrative tampering is protected.

As such, I see this as an attempt to get authorization for legal counsel before another walkout takes place. By placing this as an Executive Order, it is now scheduled under "Special Orders" and therefore before normal legislation, even though it reads like legislation and has the exact same line as legislation already scheduled under Old Business.

The problem is that the power to issue Executive Orders is specifically granted to the SA President under the Executive Bylaws, Article II Section 1j. As such, the Senate has no known power to act on it. While there may be a desire to create separate legislation to get the authorization for using the Private Account to obtain legal counsel and also a desire to get it past the roadblock created by the Separation of Powers Act, these are matters that should go before Senators, and the Senate should not be railroaded into dealing with it early by disguising the matter as an Executive Order.

Committee Publicity Act
This is a nice sounding way of getting information to students so they can participate in student government. This goal is noble and I have no objections to it.

I do, however, have a concern with the details. It directs "that those serving as chair of a committee compile/create an informational handout outlining their committee, the committee’s intention, and overall goals" and that each week, one such underrepresented committee be highlighted using the information provided. But not all of the committees upon which a student can serve as part of shared governance are chaired by students. Some, such as the Academic Policy Committee, are faculty run with student input. Clearly the Student Senate has no power to order a faculty chair to provide them with informational pamphlets. So the idea sounds great but cannot meet its stated goal.

Constituent Services Forum Act
The idea of this strange-sounding legislation is simple enough: The Legislative Affairs Director, for reasons that have yet to be explained, would be charged with setting up a listening session every month to hear from the students. But as I pointed out in September, writing legislation mandating these forums is no guarantee that they will happen. Such forums were to have taken place last year, and nothing came of them. I don't see how a new one, with such a pretentious-sounding title as "Constituent Services Forum", is likely to fare any better.

Student Association Newsletter Act
Again, good on ideas, but still questionable in substance. It would direct the Communications Director to produce a newsletter to highlight the accomplishments of Student Association each month. This is nice in theory, but what would a newsletter of the past month state? "This month, Student Association's office was cleared of documents as part of a criminal investigation of its Speaker and former President . . ." Also, while it may direct the Communications Director to publish the newsletter, details about how it is supposed to be delivered and what line item of the budget is supposed to pay for it remain to be seen.

Support for Responsible Consumption of Alcohol on Campus
This would allow the Director of School Spirit and Campus Activities [personal note: Why do we need this as a Director-level position?] to organize an alcohol prevention and awareness campaign. Again, no mention of where the money is coming from or what about this campaign would be different from all the other similar campaigns that are going on.

Resolution to Support the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Community on Campus
This would direct the LGBTQ Director to hold a forum where "students, faculty, and staff will be able to discuss the [marriage] amendment, their feelings surrounding it, and the impact the amendment will have on their lives." I recognize that many students on this campus have strong feelings about this amendment, and I can certainly empathize with the shock they must be feeling that their opinions were not shared by a majority of voters. But is the answer a forum that merely gives them a chance to vent? I can't really answer that question, but it seems a bit weak as a response to me.

Registered Student Organization Rights Act of 2006
I know certain people are really wanting my opinion on this item, and they have probably scrolled down to this section just to see what I have to say. For them, I am copying the entire text of this act here:
Registered Student Organization Rights Act of 2006

Author(s) Sen. Stueber, Sen. Bahr
Sponsors: Sen. Huibregtsee, Sen. Lesky, Sen Scott
Whereas, the resources available to Registered Student Organizations are significantly limited
Whereas, it is necessary for existing Registered Student Organization’s to maximize efficiency and to use the resources allocated to them in a manner that best serves current students.
Whereas, office space in the union is limited and should be maximized for current UW-M students.
Be is resolved that the SA Senate by majority vote recommend(s) to the Union Policy Board that it change its policy in the Student Organization manual (page 7, paragraph 1)
“Student Organizations may include faculty, staff or individuals from the community as members, but they do not serve as officers or have a controlling interest in the organization.”
“Student Organizations may only include current registered students as accredited members. Faculty, staff or members of the community may participate in Student Organization activities with out a controlling interest in the organization, but are not entitled to the resources allocated by Student Association that have been allocated with students’ segregated fees. Further, the offices allocated in the union are intended for administrative purposes only.”

I will begin with the title. What in this act provides any rights to a student organization? Isn't this a way to take some of the larger organizations who provide valuable service to the community and depress their perceived standing by limiting their membership to student members? There are already certain student governmental bodies who look at student membership only, so any reputable student organization will have the numbers already broken into student versus non-student membership. I don't see any rights asserted or granted by this act.

Now to the justifications. The act claims that "the resources available to Registered Student Organizations are significantly limited". I would be a fool to believe they were totally unlimited, but student organization resources are "significantly" limited primarily to the extent that they are being used by the Student Association itself and not being passed onto other organizations. Every student pays hundreds of dollars in segregated fees specifically to run student events and organizations. How does a $9 million budget not provide for the needs of student organizations unless most of it is absorbed before it gets there?

The act further states that "it is necessary for existing Registered Student Organization’s to maximize efficiency and to use the resources allocated to them in a manner that best serves current students." I would agree with this statement, but I would insist that Student Association also live up to this mandate. The previously released financial records show large payments for executive and speaker salaries, and large budgeted items such as printing and travel that can be open to abuse. Furthermore, one of the items of Old Business is an act that would reset the Presidential salary to $10,000 from the original $9,000. The Student Association Senate and Executive branches need to lead by example and prove that their financial house is in order before they start ordering around other organizations in the name of granting them "rights".

And just when you thought that the hubris couldn't get any worse, then the act claims "office space in the union is limited and should be maximized for current UW-M students." The Union Director, in an attempt to create more Registered Student Organization (RSO) space, released the area where the old Union Outing Center was for RSO use, but after the move by the Post into that space, and the move by Student Assocation into the Post's old space, SA didn't release its old space for other organizations, instead converting it into an Organizational Programming Center, which sees little to no use. Releasing that space, which has a central "lobby" area with six adjoining offices, would have allowed space for several RSOs to receive the space they need to maximize their efforts for current students. Also, if there is such a premium on office space, why is Robert Stueber, chair of the Union Policy Board and an author of this act, advertising in the Union 3rd Floor that there is office space available?

I mentioned the proposed solution to these self-created problems before, but there are more things that need to be said about it. Again, for the record, the idea is to ask the Union Policy Board to change its policy in the Student Organization Manual to read:
“Student Organizations may only include current registered students as accredited members. Faculty, staff or members of the community may participate in Student Organization activities with out a controlling interest in the organization, but are not entitled to the resources allocated by Student Association that have been allocated with students’ segregated fees. Further, the offices allocated in the union are intended for administrative purposes only.”

First, the item to be changed is part of the Student Organization Manual, published by the Student Activities Office, which is an arm of the University's Office of Student Life and is not part of the Union Policy Board. Second, what do the authors of this act mean by "accredited members"? Third, what does it mean that non-students are not entitled to the resources allocated by the Student Association that have been purchased with segregated fees? These things need to be spelled out.

The last sentence is something that needs to be addressed on its own. "Further, the offices allocated in the union are intended for administrative purposes only.” It has always been the policy that Union office space is to be used for the work of the club who has it, but the definition of "the work of the club" varies depending on the club involved. Would the Chess Club be prohibited from monitoring high-level chess tournaments from their office? Would Peer Health Advocates have to find a new office from which to conduct counseling sessions? These activities fall under the "work of the club" but are not necessarily "administrative purposes". This definition is too vague to mean anything important.

Diversity Restoration Act
This would create a diversity forum each semester to promote awareness and express the need for diversity on campus. It would also create a Diversity Committee composed of minority Senators and majority non-Senator students to aid in the purposes of the act. Again, this sounds nice, but how can we be sure this will do anything useful?

Student Association Senators Right to Serve Act
And as usual, bringing up the rear, is the latest attempt to weasel out of the Bylaws hole they are in:
Student Asspciation Senators Right to Serve Act
Authors: Senator Bahr, Senator Scott
Sponsors: Senator Draheim, Senator Grotz, Senator Decker, Senator Magar, Senator Huibretsge, Senator Nesgoda, Senator Pfeifer, Senator Kopczyk, Senator Malke

WHEREAS, democratically elected Student Association Senators have a right to serve in the Student Association Senate.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Student Association Senate Bylaws be amended to ensure that right by removing the following passages: Article VII, Section 1, sub-sections (f)(g)

The pretense of a more sweeping cleanup is removed in favor if a more direct approach. Personally, I don't have a problem with democratically elected senators serving in the Senate -- as long as they aren't compromising their position by being in multiple branches of government. Having made the choice to earn money at this, I have no problem saying that they have chosen to give up their Senate seat as well.

This will certainly be an interesting meeting, especially if the issues raised here reach the Senate floor.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Cute little detail about October 29 Senate Meeting

In consulting with sources I have access to who monitor Student Association Senate activities, I noticed one small detail that has yet to receive comment. Apparently, one of the Senators motioned for a recess just before the vote on the SA Bylaws Revision Act was to be taken. The motion failed, and so did the Act, by a vote of 10-8 (as a bylaw change it needed 2/3).

The idea of calling for a recess just prior to a vote creates a rather awkward time during which Senators can be approached by outside interests and given "instructions" on how to vote. Given that the Senators are relatively new to parliamentary procedure (or so we have been told), giving them time to be browbeat by more experienced parliamentarians isn't exactly the best way to inspire confidence.

There is another Senate meeting on November 12. We'll see if this tactic is tried again then.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A few questions for the Union Policy Board...

The Union Policy Board is now on record claiming that, despite making several adjustments to the office allocations made last spring, there were no violations of process. USC 06-001 granted the Union Policy Board the "right to unbridled discursion", meaning they can say whatever they want. I call upon them now to use this right to answer these questions:
1. Why is failure to adhere to the meeting schedule provided as part of the application for Union office space not a process violation?
2. Why, when the schedule for office allocations provided for an initial allocation in March followed by two allocations in April to handle appeals was the process not complete after the allocation meetings of April 7 and April 28?
3. Why was the matter of Peer Health Advocates brought up on May 5, when it was already decided on April 28 and no new paperwork was filed about it?
4. Why was Chess Club brought into the Peer Health Advocates matter when they had filed no appeal and were happy with their office assignment?
5. Why was Strategic Game Club brought into the Peer Health Advocates matter, even though their appeal had nothing to do with Union 360/398 (Peer Health Advocates' office assignment at the April 28 meeting) or Union 379 (PHA's assignment after the meeting) but rather their status in Union 372 or a larger office?
6. Where on the audio of the May 5 meeting where all three of these are supposedly combined into a single issue (available from Scott Gore's assistant) is a motion made one way or another regarding Strategic Game Club's appeal?
7. If, as my review of the tape indicates, Strategic Game Club's appeal has not yet been addressed, why was it not up for discussion in either the May 18 meeting or the November 3 meeting?
8. Why are none of these actions and inactions violations of process?

I look forward to having these questions brought up and hearing the Union Policy Board's timely and relevant response.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Looking into the jaws of the SFC Bylaws tiger

I have specifically refrained from looking into the SFC Bylaws changes that were proposed at theSA Senate meeting of October 29, as they are long and tedious. Here is an attempt to decipher what's going on:

The proposed changes to Section II remove the allowance for funding University departments with permanent employees. It also removes this: "The SFC may fund organizations, programs or services (hereafter "applicants") with an emphasis on the following criteria:
A. Supporting the mission of UWM.
B. Providing services to all UWM students.
C. Providing support for ongoing UWM projects.
D. Providing support for UWM leadership development.

Section III has a few changes. It adds language about "alleged" violations, and stated that a decision to deny funding based on alleged allegations is appealable under Section XVII.

Section IV would state that anyone who wants to be nominated to SFC "shall express that wish either in writing in advance to the Speaker of the Senate;" if there is any alternative, it is cut off the copy of the agenda I have. It would remove two senators from SFC from the pool of schools (Arts, Health Sciences, Architecture, Engineering & Applied Science, Nursing, Information Studies and Social Welfare), giving an additional seat to an At-Large senator and another one to Letters & Science, bringing each of them to two appointments. In addtion, four alternates would be appointed by the Speaker, instead of the current two.

Section VI would add two alternates to the Appeals Committee. Instead of these people being appointed by the Senate directly, they would be nominated by the Speaker and approved by a majority vote. Also, the three non-Senator students that are appointed by the Shared Governance Committee would no longer require Senate approval, and the absence of a Chief Justice would cause that position on the Appeals Committee to be held by whichever justice is next on the judicial hierarchy chart.

Section VII rates to be potentially controversial. The changes would limit funding to University departments, organizations with written governing documents, all of SA, including its sub-units and the Senate Allocation Committee. Furthermore, the applicant must "Provide a critical service, as its primary mission, not offered by other campus entities." The current document allows for agencies employing a permanent UWM employee to be eligible as well.

In addition, the changes would list all of the critical services: Norris Health Center, transportation services for students, professional legal assistance for students, student housing assistance, direct administrative support for student organizations, child care services for students, the Athletics Department, and "On-campus student resource center, not currently funded by SAC, whose primary mission is to serve the diverse needs of all UWM students", whatever that means.

Much of the language of VII.E about organizations that move from SAC funding to SFC funding has been removed.

Section VIII removes the requirement that an applicant that wishes to receive funding must complete its application and return it to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs by October 1.

Section X.D adds an interesting line: Insufficient funding through SAC is not a legitimate justification to request a transfer to SFC. I don't have enough background to understand why this line would be added, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Section XI.B is another interesting proposed change: An organization that is deemed eligible as a critical service under section VII above may still be denied funding within SFC's funding priorities.

The next potential firestorm comes in Section XVI, Presidential Ratification. This allows the SA President to veto any individual assignment, and the SFC process is not considered complete until the President has had an opportunity to act on it.

Section XVII has a few changes proposed. The Appeals Committee would get 20 school days to act on the appeal, instead of the current ten. But XVII.E as proposed would seem to contradict this:
If, for whatever reason, the Chief Justice does not convene the meeting within five days of receiving the appeak, the Speaker of the Senate shall unilaterally remove the Chief Justice as Appeals Committee chair and temporarily occupy the position of chair in order to call the meeting and elect a new Appeals Committee chair from amongst the membership. The Speaker will vacate his/her seat upon the new chair being elected. If the Speaker does not call this meeting, the Deputy Speaker shall call this meeting.

I will defer this issue to those who have more experience with the Senate Finance Committee. When I learn more from people I trust on this issue, I will pass it on.

Quick comment on Executive Bylaws

In an attempt to find the original (i.e. unmarked) 2005 bylaws for the Senate Finance Committee, I found the Executive Bylaws for both 2005 and 2006. The 2005 listing is the list that was in effect when the Senate Bylaws were passed, so we can interpret the intent of the passage that has drawn such attention, namely Article VII, Section 1, subsection f: "Senators may not concurrently serve as a member of the Presidential Cabinet or as a Student Court Justice."

From the Executive Bylaws of 2005, Article IV:
Section 1 -- Composition
a. The President shall have the power to create and decide the composition of a Presidential Cabinet.
b. The Presidential Cabinet must include the following positions:
1. President
2. Vice President
3. Secretary
4. Treasurer
5. Chief of Staff
6. Communications Director
7. Academic Affairs Director
8. Shared Governance Director
9. LGBTQ Issues Director
10. Women's Issues Director
11. Legislative Affairs Director
12. Multicultural Affairs Director

c. Further Director Positions created by the President shall be members of the Presidential Cabinet.
d. The President shall designate weather [sic] other officers hired are considered Executive Staff or Cabinet positions.
e. The President may invite other officers to join the Cabinet as he/she sees fit.
f. Cabinet positions shall be considered Executive Staff positions and subject to these By-Laws.
g. Any deputy, advisor, counsel, intern, or similarly titled non-director position is not considered a cabinet position.
h. Any cabinet officer may not concurrently serve as a senator, or court justice.

This definition scheme was in place when the Senate Bylaws were made, and thus determines the intent of what Senate Bylaws VII.1.f was talking about. First, let's look at the people who were, by the 2005 definition, the minimum cabinet:
President Samantha Prahl: No senate position
Vice President Jon Tingley: No senate postion
Secretary Casey Glader: Senator -- Peck School of the Arts
Treasurer Emily Grotz: Senator -- School of Business
Chief of Staff Alicia Bagley: Senator -- Helen Bader School of Social Welfare
Communications Director Renee Hayssen: No senate position
Academic Affairs Director Alex Jacobs: No senate position
Shared Governance Director --VACANT
LGBTQ Issues Director Lauren Otte: No senate position
Women's Issues Director Cassy Magar: Senator -- School of Education
Legislative Affairs Director Kyle Durestein: No senate position
Multicultural Affairs Director Chris Wiley: Senator -- Peck School of the Arts

Now add to this the provision of 2005 Executive Bylaws IV.1.c: "Further Director Positions created by the President shall be members of the Presidential Cabinet."
School Spirit & Campus Activities Director Sarah Lesky: Senator -- Letters & Science
Diversity Director Sergio Piceno: No senate position

We can go no farther in terms of the exact wording of the bylaws, because the rest are added at the discretion of the President. But even with this more restrictive wording, there are still six positions that are double-booked in violation of the intent of the Senate Bylaws, with more people who are wearing two hats when you add office managers, assistant directors and the like.

Monday, October 30, 2006

More on October 29 Senate Agenda

UWM Student Association
October 29th, 2006
6pm Union West Ballroom

I. Call to Order/Roll Call
II. Approval Of Agenda
III. Approval of Minutes from September 24, 2006
IV. Comments and Questions
a. President
b. Vice President
c. Dean of Students
d. Chancellor or Designee

V. Reports
VI. Special Orders
a. Presidential Appointments to the Student Court
1. William Anderson
2. Amanda Schaeffer

b. Senate Vacancies
1. Freshman Senate Candidates (5 vacancies)
a. Amber Skattebo
b. Gavin Jackson
c. Erin Kruizenga

2. Letters & Science Senate Candidates (1 vacancy)
a. Joseph Ohler
b. Brian Averill

c. Senate Appropriations Committee Senate Appointment (1 vacancy)
1. Russel Scott
2. Calob Kopczyk

d. Union Policy Board Senate Appointment (1 vacancy)
1. Russel Scott
2. Tobin Huibregtse

VII. Senate Old Business
VIII. Senate New Business
1. Resolution to Oppose the Proposed Constitutional Amendment 2
2. SA Financial Transparency Act
3. 2006 SA Senate Bylaw Revision
4. Separation of Powers Act
5. Budget Reorganization
6. Senate Responsibility Act
7. The Fiscal Accountability Act of 2006
8. SFC Bylaws

IX. Open Forum
X. Announcements

As was mentioned in my previous post, the meeting was adjourned during discussion of the Separation of Powers Act. But there are other interesting things that didn't get discussed. Here is a brief summary of the new business listed:

Resolution to Oppose the Proposed Constitiutional Amendment: This act puts the Student Association on record as opposing the proposed amendment to the Wisconsin State Constitution which would define "marriage" as between one man and one woman, and would not recognize a "legal status identical or substantially similar to marriage for unmarried individuals". These types of resolutions are a personal pet peeve of mine. I don't care if I agree or disagree with the stance adopted; the fact that the Student Association takes a stance is a disenfranchisement of some portion of the student body, which is not something I want from a body that's supposed to be representing me.

SA Financial Transparency Act: This act calls for an annual internal audit of the Student Association every year, to be initiated by the SA President. It would allow the Senate to inspect financial documents, including audits, on a majority vote.

2006 Senate Bylaw Revision: This would remove the Senate prohibition from serving in other branches. Since Senate Bylaws take precedence over all other SA bylaws, having Article VII, Section 1, subsections f and g in place effectively cancels the attempt to commingle the branches until it is removed.

The other changes appear to be attempts to allow the Senate to refrain from filling seats if they choose. It would put a requirement that the Speaker approve filling a seat, and it removes the provision that Freshmen Senator seats be filled at the second senate meeting in September.

Separation of Powers Act: This would force the 14 senators (by one count from a supporter of commingled branches) who are part of the executive branch to resign from one seat or the other within 5 business days. It cites the current bylaws as a reason for such a demand.

Budget Reorganization: This would "clarify" the line items for various offices, including the SA President. This would set the Presidential line item at $10,000.00 instead of $9,000.00. Even if this clarification were to take place, it would still mean that the current pace of Presidential salary would exhaust the line item well before the end of the term.

Senate Responsibility Act: Despite its high-sounding title, all this does is track senators' level of participation in senate activities and present those who achieve a certain level with a certificate at the end of the year.

The Fiscal Accountabiliy Act of 2006: This act has been slightly modified from the form presented here. The transaction that uses UWM Union money to bolster the Athletics Department is no longer called "illegitimate" but rather "possibly questionable". The section that talks about the permissibility of an audit no longer adds "and until such time as the audit can be completed the department must cease functioning" to the end of it. The section that stated, "BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Student Association orders the operatios of these departments must cease immediately in order to comply with the University's interpretation of F20" was removed. And finally, the final section is modified to read, "BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the Student Association order the President to use any and all private funds to ensure that we effectively address the constitutional crisis that our government has faced in the past few weeks and to seek the necessary legal counsel to ensure that the right of UW-M students to govern themselves without administrative tampering is protected."

Even with the new wording, it's still questionable. In the press release published on October 26, the Private Account, an account under the control of student government mandated by Article V of the Executive bylaws, "contains money that SA has fund-raised on its own and is not student money." While it may not be Segregated University Fee money, such money is for the student government to promote student interest. If it isn't student money, whose money is it?

Senate Finance Committee Bylaws: This covers the bylaws under which Segregated University Fee money is allocated. The changes proposed are numerous and require an article of their own to detail. I will do so at a later time. For now, the fact that the meeting was adjourned before dealing with this makes life interesting.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Fireworks at SA Senate meeting

Well, there are still some things left to be discovered, but the lack of Russ Rueden at the Student Assoication Senate meeting was apparent.

To begin with, there was an actual call for a no-confidence vote against Russ Rueden. It made it to a vote, but failed. (That isn't surprising, since it takes a 2/3 vote to pass.)

There was an actual appointment made to the Student Court as well. This makes it so that there are enough justices (barring a resignation) for the Court to actually do things. No word yet on if Drew Baryenbruch's issue will be taken up as a result.

There was a call to add an annual audit requirement to the Senate bylaws. I'm not sure what happened with that, I will post what did happen when I get reliable information on that.

The big fireworks came over a proposed revision to the Senate Bylaws that would have removed the prohibition of Senators holding executive or judicial positions (transcribed exactly from the Agenda, except that I am using full names are given for all authors and sponsors):

2006 SA Senate Bylaw Revision

Author: Senator Daniel Bahr, Senator Russel Scott

Sponsors: Speaker Amanda Voigtlander, Senator Tyler Draheim, Senator Brandon Decker, Senator Caleb Kopczyk, Senator Tobin Huibretsge, Senator Zachary Nesgoda, Senator Nikki Pfeifer

WHERAS, nearly half of the SA Senate could be unseated as a result of the aforementioned action not being taken.

WHERAS, past efforts to separate the branches have been unsuccessful and have lead to the vacancy of up to eighteen seats on the SA Senate.

WHERAS, those most willing to volunteer their time in the legislative branch would be disenfranchised from prospective employment in the executive branch with out the aformentioned action being taken.

WHERAS, current SA executive branch members who have already planned on serving in both branches woule be denied their understood right to do so.

WHERAS, separation of the branches at this time would lead to a denial of due process on behalf Senate member who currently serve in both branches.

WHERAS, the Student Association amended the Executive Bylaws on July 25th, 2006.

WHEREAS, there is a need for the legislative language to be consistent in order to prevent any misinterpretation of the bylaws.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Student Association Senate Bylaws be amended by striking out the following passages: Article VII, Section 1, sub-sections (f)(g).

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Student Association Senate Bylaws be further amended by striking the following passages: Article III, Section (b) "second";
Article III, Section (b) "in September".

THEREFORE BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the Student Association Senate Bylaws be amended by adding the following passage to Article III, Section (e): ", and the Speaker approves."

The first change would remove the passages in the Senate Bylaws that contradict the Executive Bylaws. Here is the sentence from which the wording of the second change is to be struck: "The Freshmen Senators shall be filled with this same process and occur at the second senate meeting in September." The change would make it, "The Freshmen Senators shall be filled with this same process and occur at the senate meeting." Neither makes any sense, even in context, but the change was supposed to allow Freshmen Senators to be appointed at any meeting, not just the one mandated.
And the final change would require that the Speaker approve the filling of a seat by the nomination process.

After much debate, this didn't get the 2/3 vote needed to enact a bylaw change. This led to the next item up for debate:

Separation of Powers Act
Author: Senator Antwan Jones

Sponsors: Papa-Kwesi Coleman

Supporters: Carlo Albano, Nina Vandenhounter, Chris Larson

WHEREAS: a number of student representatives in the Student Association currently hold positions in both the Student Senate and the Presidential Cabinet; and

WHEREAS: the Senate Bylaws in Article VII, Section 1-f state, "Senators may not concurrently serve as a member of the Presidential Cabinet or as a Student Court Justice; and

WHEREAS: the Senate Bylaws take precedence over all other SA bylaws under the SA Constitution Article VII; and

WHEREAS: the protection of the separation of powers in the Student Association is vital to the integrity of the Student Association; therefore

BE IT RESOLVED THAT: all SA Representatives holding positions in both the Student Senate and the Presidential Cabinet must resign from one of the two posts within 5 business days.

This was the act that the previous bylaw change was supposed to circumvent. We at Well Armed Sheep aren't the only ones pointing out the problem that was lurking in the Senate Bylaws. This led to even more debate, and during a motion to table this indefinitely, three senators (Antwan Jones, Mark Talatzko and Andrew Hable) left in protest. As the senate was barely above quorum before they left, a quorum call was made at this point, and the meeting ended when quorum failed.

Next time, I'll post the full agenda, including the provision that would have put another $1,000.00 into the Presidential salary for the current year.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

SA press release leaves much to be desired

The Student Association has released its version of events. It reiterates the same points I have been making here about their response and stated actions.

As I mentioned on Friday, the request for an independent auditor is a non-starter. In the letter, Ms. Prahl notes that the Director of the Internal Audit division rejected it "with no reasoning provided."

Given the discussions, I can see why Director Rediske didn't bother to give a reason. From his viewpoint, he has the right to see these documents, and asking for an independent auditor to see them first is evidence that there is something to hide.

However, what really caught my attention was the statement that despite the Student Association being effectively shut down, it had "retained Attorney Teresa Rickert of the Brookfield law firm of Schmidt Rupke Tess-Matner & Fox, S.C. on Monday, October 23 to intervene on its behalf." Remember that as of Friday, October 20, an emergency Senate meeting was held for the purpose of discussing obtaining legal counsel. As there was no quorum, no action could be taken. And no new Senate meeting has occurred since then, although one is scheduled for October 29. So under what authority were they able to retain an attorney? Money coming from the Private Account in excess of $150.00 must be approved by the Senate. So are we to assume that this attorney is either working pro bono or taking a severe pay cut?

The Student Association also wants to make it clear "that SHAC [Sandburg Halls Administrative Council] and SA are two completely separate entities." However,as we have seen , checks to AcerPrudens were written from both SHAC and SA for services no one is able to verify were delivered. Both of these accounts have also been under the control of Russell Rueden at one time or another, and as such, it is worth looking into the possibility that this account has been tampered with as well. This counters the argument that "no link between the check under investigation and SA has ever been made."

The statement also says, "The execution of the search warrant [of October 23] has now completely disabled SA." However, they were able to hold an informational meeting on the day of the press release, and they are going forward with plans to have a Senate meeting on the 29th. Furthermore, someone was able to post this press release, which came out after they were "completely disabled", on the SA website. (To be fair, they have been disabled enough to prevent posting the Senate agenda, which was promised to be available after the 27th.)

Again, this appears to be a case of the Student Association hiding behind meaningless platitudes and blather, and as such, isn't worth the electrons it's being stored with.

"Wigg-ing Out" -- A response

James Wigderson's blog quoted my article in the University Standard and used it as more evidence of his position that student government should be abolished. I would like to respond to the comments made there.

I do not believe that we should abolish student governance in the current environment. So long as the U.S. Supreme Court affirms the legality of student segregated fees, and the University of Wisconsin System campuses keep charging them, a student body on these campuses to administer the use of these funds is necessary. The exact form and scope of the body is up for debate, but failing to provide for such an administrative body devolves the practice into taxation without representation, and this nation's founding fathers fought a war to oppose that.

I realize that such a body is prone to corruption. Student politicians, like other politicians, have a hard time keeping their hands out of a money bag that appears to be lying unnoticed in front of them. The only check on corrupt officials in any governmental institution, though, is a vigilant and informed public. Vigilance has been lacking for quite some time, but until recently, the information has been there for those of us who have been around enough to know where to find it.

The discontent and the outrage over issues are both greater now than in the past. This is because the most recent incarnations of UWM's student government have become more outrageous by dropping all pretenses of propriety. The end of the 2004-2005 school year saw the SA senate paralyzed by enough factions boycotting the proceedings at key times that quorum could never be achieved. In the 2005-2006 school year, the primary tool for stagnating the process was the depletion of the Student Court. At the conclusion of the election that created the student government for that year, the following was posted in the Student Activities Office newsletter:

If anyone is interested in filling the current Court vacancy, please submit a resume, cover letter, and two recommendations to the Student Activities Office c/o Student Court by Tuesday, March 29, 2005 at noon. For the two recommendations, include one personal recommendation from someone that knows you well and one from a legal scholar that can attest to you knowledge of the legal field. These recommendations are to be sealed in an envelope with the signature of the author of the recommendation across the seal.

In addition, you must also respond to all of the requirements outlined below. The interview stage will consist of a presentation and questioning period. You must make a presentation on the following topic: "The role of the judiciary in a three branch government." The presentation should last no less than 10 minutes and no more than 20 minutes. Following the presentation, a standard question and answer period will take place. All candidates must be available on Tuesday, March 29, 2005 from 3:00PM until 9:00PM for their presentation and interview. Questions: email

1. List all of the powers of the University Student Court.
2. Explain the importance of the University Student Court in terms of Student Organizations.
3. Explain in detail any legal experience you may have.
4. Is a court justice ever required to recuse themselves? Please describe each instance.
5. What importance do you place on precedent?
6. Please rephrase the entire Section 10 of the University Student Court Bylaws in terms of a timeline.
7. Does the University Student Court have the power to affect the election? Elaborate on all of the powers of the court in this instance.
8. Please review the Bush v. Gore opinions from the High Court at and prepare briefs of the following opinions:
-Concurrence (C.J. Rehnquist)
-Dissent (Stevens)
-Dissent (Souter)
-Dissent (Ginsburg)
-Dissent (Breyer)

You must have six separate briefs, one for each of the opinions above. Each one must be 3/4 of a page at 12 pt font, 1 inch margins, double spaced. Responses to these eight requirements must be attached to your resume and cover letter. All submissions must be in print format

I understand the desire to make sure that qualified people are applying, but the requirements here made sure that practically no one could meet them. This year's requirements are at least as strict, and as such, Samantha Prahl can claim that she is sending up for appointment the only two applicants for the Court position, even though there are five openings. This dearth of Court members has led to situations where people can't get the relief to which they are entitled, simply because there is no one to grant it.

So what do we do? The same thing any other group must do if it wants to fix a dysfunctional governmental system:
1. Fix the problems that are present in the current system. This means that either amendments to the SA Constitution need to be made to prevent the strangling of the inherent checks and balances system, or a new one must be built from the ground up that prevents the problem from occurring to begin with.

2. Truly keep the electorate informed. Part of the problem is that there is a large section of the electorate that doesn't get involved until large checks are cut in apparent embezzlement schemes. But there are enough leader types who can keep track of the byzantine workings of student government if they know what to look for.

3. Work with those who can enforce the mandates. In this case, I'm referring to the administration. There won't be any issue of having fewer than the three justices required to conduct any business on the Student Court if the Constitution states that the entire Student Government is dissolved if the number of justices remains below five for more than 14 days. The failure of the Union Policy board to meet once this school year would be less of a problem if that failure gave the Union Director license to act independently until its next scheduled meeting. By using either the power or the threat of administration takeover, the student government becomes more motivated to act responsibly.

There have been past failures in reforming the system, but the need to have some system of student input into fees that are being charged for student activities remains. As such, the reformation efforts continue until something works.