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.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Bad Call

The letter from Student Association President Samantha Prahl to the Director of UWM's Internal Audit division was already seen as a sign of desperation. But from the accounting people I have spoken to about it, the fact that she requested an independent audit is suspect in itself. Standard accounting practice is to let any internal audit division have first crack at the books.

While having an independent audit sounds good, having that be the first audit is suspect because there is too much leeway for bribery or coercion to affect the results, especially from the agency that commissioned the independent audit. So when Ms. Prahl offered an independent audit in lieu of the University audit, that only made people more suspicious . . .

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Articles From University Standard newspaper

At the request of the University Standard newspaper on campus, I posted a history (warning, it's long) of events of the last few months.

Also, Drew Baryenbruch has added his commentaries:
Democracy Now an Illusion at UWM
Let's See What Happens

New documents released

The Campus Democracy Coalition, a loose confederation of concerned students and student organizations, held a press conference this morning to release financial documents that were obtained through an open records request. The documents, and their meaning, are:
Time Log -- Russ Rueden This is Russ Rueden's time card from August 2006. It lists him as having worked ten days that month from midnight to noon. While this may be the case, there are obvious questions associated with this:

1. What was going on at that time that required working such hours and required 12 hour shifts?
2. Over the summer, the building closes at 10:00 p.m., and anyone who is in there after hours (allowable as an officer of a student organization) must contact Client Services (who act as on-site security for the building) and inform them of this. Do their records concur with this timecard?
3. The building is locked two hours before these shifts began. Did Mr. Rueden gain access after hours, or did he enter before his shift and choose to begin working at midnight?
4. It is possible to edit the file, so the time period may have been mistaken (and should have read noon to midnight instead of the reverse). Even so, it still means that he was in the office after hours, for which records should still be available from Client Services.

Time Log -- Jon Tingley This is Vice President Tingley's card from the same time period. This one shows important information. First, the EDIT tag is visible, which would allow people to edit the record. Second, there are, in most cases, exact times posted, as opposed to the neatly-rounded hours found on the previous card. This shows that this is likely a record of hours that was not edited after the fact, except for one or two possible places.

Time Log -- Samantha Prahl This is the most interesting of the time logs. Not only are all of the times rounded off, there are a large number of them recorded by hand. When asked about this, she claimed that those times represented days when there were over 20 people who needed to be entered into the system, which is more than it can handle. Therefore, on those days, she volunteered to not be included and record hours manually.

20 people maximum on the account seems like a reasonable number, but the claim that the limit was not only reached over the summer, but reached nearly constantly, begins to stretch the imagination. If this is true, then there are records of the 20 people who were clocked in on each of those days, and I for one would like to see them.

Summary of Executive branch pay August 2005 This is a summary of how much the four main Student Association officers and the Chief or Staff were paid in August 2005, under the Rueden administration. Note that, of these, the highest number of hours are attributed to Rueden and Prahl, more than double any other officer.

Segregated Fees Summary: Executive Wages This shows the amount of wages paid to the current executive officers as of October 18. Note that there are double entries for three officers, where two amounts are paid in the same month, and that each officer who has this double entry does so in a different month. Also note that the $1,680.00 that is claimed on Prahl's August timecard is annotated as September, suggesting that these listings are for the month after work is completed.

It is also worth noting that Ms. Prahl has already claimed $5,743.60 of the $9,000.00 annual salary available for the office of SA President. At this rate, her salary fund will be exhausted halfway through her term of office.

Segregated Fees summary: Legislative Wages This shows the payments to those members of the legislature who receive pay. Note that, just as in the case of the Executive branch, Speaker Rueden has already collected thousands of dollars in salary, and is on pace to exhaust his salary cap halfway through the term.

Segregated Fee Expenditures 2005-2006 This summary of expenditures and transfers has an interesting note on the fifth entry: $1,437.00 to AcerPrudens, the company at the heart of the Sandburg Halls controversy. My sources tell me that this money was authorized for AcerPrudens to create a website that was never finished by them. In another parallel to the Sandburg Halls Administrative Council scenario, there was a webmaster already on the payroll at the time.

In addition, there are large budgets for things such as printing, postage and travel. While all of these expenses may very well be justifiable, the pattern of the past mandates that all of these be investigated to avoid problems.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Interesting Observation

On the door to Union 394, the following note is posted:

is an anagram for
Rueden's crap

Need I say more?

Student Association to meet with students tonight

The Student Association is hosting an open forum for students tonight (October 25) in the UWM Union. The flyer passed around in the Student Organization wing says it will be in the Lounge on the 2nd Floor at 7:30 p.m.

The problem is that the proposed meeting place is closed to normal traffic in preparations for the Open House this weekend. As such, the normal supply of chairs and tables has been moved out. Not only that, but there are a number of questions people have that probably aren't going to be answered effectively. This will be interesting for anyone who wants to attend. In any case, the Well Armed Sheep will be around to report any juicy tidbits.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Financial records found in Union hallway

A set of grant requests from the Spring 2006 Senate Allocation Committee was found in a box in the hallway on the Union 3rd Floor. When an organization files for a grant request, eight copies must be turned in, one for each member of the committee; these are single copies of such requests. Each one has the original date stamp, and notes are on them as to how much was actually granted to the organization in question.

No information is available as to whether it was a full or partial set. However, all the records that were found were turned over to the Dean of Students' office for safekeeping.

At this point, the question of how these records came to be in a box in the hallway remains to be answered.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Administration comments

This was sent to all UWM students:

Dear UWM students, faculty and staff,

On October 21, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a story about
UWM and the Student Association (SA), Student government shut down: UWM police investigating possible embezzlement.

Because we value and respect student government, we believe it is important to share with you the perspective of the UWM administration regarding current questions relating to the UWM Student Association (SA). Federal privacy laws restrict us from disclosing everything, but many facts can be shared about what has happened over the past month and a half.

At the outset, we want to emphasize that our concerns in this situation are not about the role of student governance, but rather about our obligation to ensure that all students are represented with accountability, transparency and adherence to state laws and policies. The UWM administration fully supports the right of students to independently govern themselves.

Two separate but related investigations are currently under way. Both commenced September 6, the same day a Sandburg Halls Administrative Council (SHAC) representative discovered the existence of the $10,000 check written from a SHAC account to an entity called AcerPrudens.


The first of the two investigations is one being conducted by the UWM Department of Internal Audit with assistance from the UW System Office of Operations Review and Audit. Its purpose is to determine whether student funds were used in adherence to state law and UW System policy. Following SHAC’s report of the $10,000 check written to AcerPrudens, the auditors reviewed SHAC’s financial records. SHAC cooperated fully with the auditors in this effort.

Related to the audit, on October 9, the Chancellor requested that the Student Association also provide UWM officials with access to its financial records, in particular those relating to an outside bank account for funds privately raised. Such an account, which does not contain state funds or segregated fees, is permissible under UW System policies.

Authority for the Chancellor’s request is found in UW System Financial Administration Policy F20 (which can be found online at

All student organizations receiving Segregated University Fees (SUF) support along with any student organization using University facilities, must agree as a condition of such support or use, to provide financial records, if requested, indicating specific revenues and expenditures for the particular event for which they received SUF support or the particular event they utilized a University facility. If SUF is received for ongoing operations of an organization, the organization must provide financial records of their entire operation, if requested by the Segregated University Fees Allocations Committees (SUFAC) or the
Institution. An organization's failure to comply with a request for financial information may result in the denial of SUF support and/or use of University facilities.

On at least three separate occasions after October 9, UWM Director of Internal Audit Paul Rediske communicated with Student Association President Samantha Prahl regarding the university’s request to access all financial records relating to the outside account. On each occasion, while Ms. Prahl suggested alternatives to UWM’s review of the records, she clearly indicated that the Student Association did not intend to turn over SA’s financial records relating to the outside bank account.

In light of SA’s response, on October 20, UWM administration took action to deny continued access to the SA offices pending resolution of its request for SA records. Part of UWM’s concern has been to ensure that the records it is seeking would be secure throughout any further delay in SA’s response to the request.

Please note that UWM’s action to suspend SA’s access to university funding and facilities was intended to impact only SA. No other student organizations are affected by that action at this time.

On Monday, October 23, SA’s attorneys contacted UWM administration to cancel the scheduled meeting between SA representatives and the auditors, and to propose that the requested records be removed to SA’s attorney’s office for review at that location. This proposal was under consideration, but has since been impacted by recent events in the criminal investigation as outlined below.


The second of the two separate investigations is being conducted by the University Police Department for potential criminal violations pertaining to the previously mentioned $10,000 check.

The latest development in that case came on the evening of Monday, October 23, when University Police executed a search warrant upon the SA offices. The warrant for the search was authorized by a Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge after being briefed on the case.

As a result of the University Police Department’s gathering of evidence, it appears that at this time there is no reason to continue to deny SA representatives access to university facilities, and we will work with SA to allow the offices to reopen.

Previously in this investigation, on September 25, information gathered by University Police was presented to the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, which then requested that certain additional information be gathered. As a result, on October 4, University Police executed a separate search warrant on a private residence, in addition to the warrant executed on October 23.

University Police will use the information gathered during the two searches to determine, along with the district attorney’s office, whether criminal charges will be issued.

We will continue to make every effort to keep the campus informed as future events surrounding the investigations into this matter unfold.


Rita Cheng
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

I will be investigating this and commenting on this later.

UPDATE: 1:37 p.m., October 24
I will be attempting to read between the lines of this letter. The obvious part is that two separate but related investigations are happening. One is being done by the Internal Audit Division, and the other is a criminal investigation through the District Attorney's office. However, the search warrant in the criminal case has obviated the need for the lockdown of the SA office realting to the audit. This means one of two things:
1. The records of the "Private Account" believed to be in Union EG80 were not found there, thus making the lockdown meaningless.
2. The records were found and seized.

We will find out which is correct later.

Student Association not completely locked down...

The Student Association isn't completely locked out of using any facilities, as had been previously assumed. Instead, the only office for which they are not granted access is the one they hold in Union EG80, on the ground floor near the Studio Arts and Crafts Centre. That is the one which is believed to hold the records that the University Administration seeks, and as such is the only one to which SA is denied access. The Student Organization Programming Center, which is in the former SA office of Union 363, is operational, although the question of what funds are being used to pay the workers there remains unanswered at the moment.

As such, we expect the next scheduled meeting of the SA Senate to go on as scheduled (October 29, 6:00 p.m., Fireside Lounge) despite the fact that this information was actually published well in advance. Agendas are supposed to be available by Friday the 27th, and it will be interesting to see if the Financial Accountability Act of 2006 will be on it.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The letter that triggered the lockdown

In addition to Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs James Hill's letter informing Student Association of their denial of service, a copy of the e-mail that Samantha sent to the Director of UWM's Internal Audit Deparment was posted as well:

Date: October 18, 2006
To: Paul W. Rediske (Director, Internal Audit Department)
CC: Sherwood G. Wilson (Vice Chancellor, Finance & Administrative Affairs)
Sub: Student Association Audit

Director Rediske,

I would like to make the position of the Student Association clear; it is my intention, and the intention of the Student Association, to work with the university administration to conduct an audit of our financial accounts that is both just and preserves the integrity of an independent association. A very dangerous precedent is set when an independent association is subject to unbridled intervention by a co-equal in university governance. As such, it is our hope to continue the discussion to find an amenable solution that preserves the legitimacy of our independent association.

I ask that you please work with me to develop the most appropriate solution to this situation that will satisfy both parties.

In service,

Samantha Prahl
Student Association

Every Student Association I have witnessed has had delusions of grandeur, but calling itself a "co-equal in university governance" is a bit much. And if they are a co-equal, how can they be an independent association?

It also seems clear to me from the tone of this e-mail that Ms. Prahl was made aware that consequences would be forthcoming before sending it. If there is a working arrangement, or if there is progress being made toward one, there is no need for such language as "it is our hope to continue the discussion" or "I ask that you please work with me". These are the words that come a person who has been clearly told that her position is unacceptable and her refusal is about to get her in trouble.

If my supposition is correct, then President Prahl had one to two days notice that something along the lines of the lockdown was about to take place. Who else knew, and what did anyone do about it? She spoke at the meeting in the garage about how much harm is being done to students by the SA office being locked down. If she could have prevented the lockdown but failed to act, isn't part of the blame for that harm on her?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The wall of silence is broken...

For more information on the campus community, visit Well Armed Sheep.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has decided to report on the shutdown of the Student Association office. This article is an excellent summary of the situation to date, and it counters the assertion made by Samantha Prahl at the garage meeting of the Senate that the SA shutdown was unrelated to the embezzlement investigation.

As to the meeting itself, the meeting appears to be in violation of the SA Senate bylaws Section 6d, which states, "There must be at least 48 hours between the time the meeting is called and the meeting itself." The explanation given at the meeting was that the bylaws listed are out of date and only two hours notice is needed. If this is the case, why are the old bylaws listed (if indeed there really was a change in the bylaws)?

This is part of the history of meetings of questionable legality perpetrated by this SA administration. The Senate Allocation Committee, one of the two that allocates segregated fees, held a meeting in July where unconfirmed appointees attended to achieve quorum and pass sweeping changes that put them in charge of approving student organization charters, which has been run in the past by the Student Activities Office. The Senate meeting to approve these bylaws was never posted in the Union, where it was to be held, except on the daily event listing provided by Reservations and Event Planning Services, where it was buried with all of the other listings. Even then, that listing said that the room was reserved from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., and when no one had appeared, a call was placed to the contact person, who told them that the room was no longer needed. As the room setup for a Senate meeting is different from normal, the REPS crew reset the room to normal. However, at 6:00 p.m., the senate came in, moved furniture around, and held their meeting anyway.

For a group that is claiming to empower the students, the actions taken seem to convey the opposite message. Meetings suddenly lack quorum when they don't need it or when people are motivated to attend, whereas meetings with no one around seem to happen. At first, I was willing to chalk this up to coincidence; now I am not so sure. And with more media coverage, there are fewer places to hide.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The next time, they'd better bring a band...

This publication came from Well Armed Sheep.

I went to the UWM Student Senate emergency meeting in the garage. The posting in the Union listed the purpose as "Discussion of Obtaining Legal Counsel". When we arrived, we got a single sheet of paper with the agenda on one side and a proposed piece of student legislation on the other side. Here is the full text of both; I will comment through parts of it, with full explanation afterward:

Student Association Senate
Emergency Meeting October 20, 2006 7:00 p.m.

1) Call to Order/Approval of the Agenda
2) Reports
3) New Business
a. The Financial Accountability Act of 2006
4) Adjournment

The Financial Accountability Act of 2006
(Comments in italics are mine)
Author: Sen. Daniel V. Bahr
Sponsor: Sen. Bahr

WHEREAS, segregated fee expenditures are governed by (UW-System)Financial Administration Policy F20, and

WHEREAS, the Student Association is charged with allocating segregated fees and ensuring that those fees are being spent legitimately, and

WHEREAS, the Student Association is aware of at least one illegitimate transaction that occurred at the direction of Interim Vice Chancellor James Hill between the UWM Student Union and the Department of Athletics totaling over $100,000.00, and

WHEREAS, the policy of the University, as echoed by Chancellor Carlos Santiago, is that an audit of a SUF (Segregated University Fee) department is permissible at any time under F20 and until such time as the audit can be completed the department must cease functioning (See below for explanation of this comment), and

WHEREAS, F20 allows equally for "SUFAC (Segregated University Fee Allocation Committee, appointed by the Student Association) or the Institution" to demand a financial audit, and

WHEREAS, both SUFAC and the Institution are equal in the eyes of policy F20, and

WHEREAS, SUFAC is a subcommittee of the Senate, comprised entirely of Senators, and

WHEREAS, all actions of SUFAC must also be approved by the Senate;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Student Association is requiring a complete financial audit to be conducted on the following entities: UWM Student Union, Norris Health Center, Klotsche Center, Department of Athletics, and

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.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Student Association empower the President to use all practical and logical means to enforce this order, and

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 facing our government.

Events of the last few days
In light of the controversy over the Sandburg Halls Administrative Council's mysterious check to Senate Speaker Russ Rueden's company, as listed in the UWM Post Blog, there have been calls to audit other records stemming from last year's administration (i.e. when Rueden was Student Association President). As part of this investigation, the University has asked for records relating to the "private SA account" from current SA President Samantha Prahl. By this, she is referring to an account that any student organization can have for funds that aren't part of segregated fees, usually through the UW Credit Union.

Prahl is refusing to release these records for fear of setting a precedent that would allow the University to examine this account any time they felt like it. The University's position is that this account is a legitimate part of the audit per the Policy:

If SUF is received for ongoing operations of an organization, the organization must provide financial records of their entire operation, if requested by the SUFAC or the Institution. An organization's failure to comply with a request for financial information may result in the denial of SUF support and/or use of University facilities.
--UW System Financial Administration Policy F20, Section II.

Therefore, since Ms. Prahl refused to release the records for the "private account", the University invoked the "failure to comply" clause and
denied Student Association the use of its University office.

This proposed legislation is an attempt to respond in kind. If failure to respond to all of an auditing agency's requests is enough to order their denial of University space, then the Student Association can do the same thing by demanding that other organizations submit to an audit. This, however, is flawed on the following grounds:

1) The policy states that the SUFAC can request the financial records, not the Senate that appoints them. While actions of the SUFAC may be subject to Senate approval, there has been no meeting by the SUFAC itself to request this audit.

2) The wording of the policy does seem to favor the University position. It does state the organization "must provide financial records of their entire operation" if requested. The fact that some of these records are not of segregated fees does not seem to be an issue.

3) This move appears to be one of retailation, not of legitimate concern. The alleged illegal transaction is one that has been a part of student government here for years. Back in 2002, money was taken from the Union budget (which makes money from its dining services) and moved to the athletic budget with the full support of the student government at the time. (They even used these payments to demonstrate their commitment to athletics on campus.) Samantha Prahl's claim is that these transfer payments continued without student approval in subsequent years. While I have found no votes to authorize this continued use of funds, neither have I found any votes to disallow it either. Anyone with information one way or the other on this is encouraged to share it with me.

It seems to me that the Student Association is taking an open secret (Union funds being used for athletics) and using this as a pretext to close the entire school. Even so, the question of whether other student organizations on campus are similarly shut down remains. Stay tuned for more details.

Student Association Emergency Meeting to seek legal counsel

For more on campus issues, see Well Armed Sheep.

There's a rather interesting note up in the Union. It's calling an emergency meeting of the Student Association Senate for tonight at 7:00 p.m., to be held in a garage just off campus (3301 N. Cramer), with the stated purpose of obtaining legal counsel. Rumors are flying about what triggered this particular meeting, but I will wait until I get reliable sources before commenting further.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Trying again

For more on the state of the UWM campus, visit Well Armed Sheep.

The Union Policy Board is going to try once again to meet, but this time they are going for a time when college students are likely to be awake. So mark your calendars for November 3 at 2:00 p.m.

As there have been a number of office issues, the first meeting (whenever it happens) is likely to be a fun-filled event with many tempers flaring over seemingly inconsequential issues. But even if it doesn't, I will be sure to post what happens.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Come out, ye scurvy dogs!

For more information about the UWM campus community see the rest of Well Armed Sheep.

In My last entry, I promised you that I would post a full report about what happened at the Union Policy Board meeting at 9:00 a.m. on October 6. Here it is:

We sat around until 9:21, at which point the roll was taken, and only two members were present: Jesse Dercks (Sandburg Halls Administrative Council president) and Michele Nelson. The three members chosen from administration were excused, but the other three listed members from the student side were conspicuously absent. It's amazing that the absent students (Russ Rueden, Robert Stueber and Robert Grover) were all three student members who were part of last year's UPB.

With lack of quorum, the meeting never took place. This is an infectious disease that used to be limited to the Senate and the Court; now it has migrated to entities such as UPB.

There is more to this situation than meets the eye. When I find out, I will post it here.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Union Policy Board -- now at 9:00 a.m. for your convenience...

This is just one of many comments about the happenings at UWM available at Well Armed Sheep. Please use this link to see the rest.

For those organizations with office troubles that have been waiting to be heard by the Union Policy Board, the good news is that you will have your chance soon. The bad news is that this chance will occur Friday, October 6 at 9:00 a.m. in the UWM Union.

When it comes to scheduling, early Friday morning is usually defined by either sleeping off the night before, studying for the Monday after, or getting all that stuff done you don't have any other time for. If I were scheduling to have the lowest student input, Friday at 9:00 would be one of my top choices.

I will post a full report about what happens at that meeting here.