Thursday, April 06, 2006

UW-Madison's Civil War

This is really funny:
"Madison students fled the campus area as a small band of rebels attempting to overthrow the Associated Students of Madison neared Memorial Union on Thursday. By early morning, sporadic gunfire and shelling on the outskirts of campus could be heard. Reports of rebel movements had them heading down Langdon Street, toward the hallowed seat of campus government, with little resistance from government forces.

"During the March 29 ASM Student Council elections, local media reported that the computer systems, having been overwhelmed by large voter turnout (numbering perhaps in the several dozens of voters), had malfunctioned. Opposition leaders said they believed something more sinister was afoot. The opposition party called itself 'Student Government,' and international monitors accused the heavily-entrenched ASM of fraud and voter intimidation. Hundreds of students took to the streets to demand new and fair elections. During the protests, paramilitary police fired tear gas and assaulted demonstrators leaving 14 dead and 75 injured.

"'These so-called elections were a sham,' said 'Student Government' leader Steve Schwerbel. 'We call on the government to cede control of the campus to the rebel forces so that we may establish a democratic regime in Madison.'

"Following the news of the election malfunction last Thusday, a small group of students, led by Schwerbel, collectively called for the current government’s ouster. ASM rejected these calls, arguing that all was done to ensure the elections were free and fair. International election monitors were quick to side with the opposition."

Thanks to The Hippie Perspective for the link. The sad part is, aside from the military aspect, this is basically true. As you can follow here, following a horribly flawed election, a group of students has taken action against the long-derided official student government body Associated Students of Madison and formed a new Student Government for which they are seeking administrative recognition while producing posts like this:
"The Student Government should make fighting the Administration, Housing, UHS, and other institution's policies a key component of the government. ASM is worthless and would rather patronize the University than fight their discriminatory actions and worthless bureaucracies. Any government can do better than ASM in its current shape and form. Also, with The Student Government planning on not having professional staff, deriding the university will be easier. We can put the University of Wisconsin in its place, but clearly not through ASM."

As you might pick up, there is also something of a liberal/conservative divide between ASM and the Student Government that mirrors that between our two student newspapers, with the liberal Daily Cardinal opposing the, err, revolutionary body, while some staff members of the more conservative Badger Herald are actually involved in it.

As a former member of the Quincy University Student Senate, I've long been annoyed by student apathy toward ASM on this campus considering it is actually a productive body that appropriates a good deal of money and is listened to by the administration. While interest in ASM has definitely grown during the past seven years, it is this apathy, as much as anything else, which has often led ASM to become a bastion of those inclined to activism for one cause or another. While I don't know them personally, I suspect there is also a strong activist strain within the Student Government ringleaders. As far as how all this will play out, I don't think ASM is going anywhere, but the credibility of all student leadership could be demolished by this fiasco, and if students can no longer vote from the comfort of their own computer terminals, participation could sink to an all-time low, furthering the downward spiral.

This is interesting to watch, however. I shall have to talk to some undergrads to see how this is playing in the campus version of Peoria.


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