“While the UWM administration fully respects the students’ right to self-govern under 36.09(5), we must also be certain that the Student Association, as the sole recognized representative for governance purposes of all UWM students, is, in fact, open and accessible to all UWM students such that official UWM recognition of it as the students’ sole representative is warranted.”
The current Senate and executive branch will serve out the remainder of their terms until May 31. While the SA did not issue a statement on how it will proceed or respond to the Post’s requests for comments, it did cancel the Passing of the Gavel, an event that transfers power to those elected to SA positions for the next academic year.
SA bylaws stipulate elections must take place in April. Changing that requires a constitutional amendment passed by two-thirds of the SA Senate and a student-wide referendum for approval. While 3 additional Senate sessions were added during the last official Senate meeting on May 5, those sessions are not on the official SA calendar. The SA did not respond to inquiries on its next course of action.
Unlike the executive branch and Senate, the SA University Student Court members are appointed to 2-year terms; Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Laliberte said this branch will be the only to remain after May 31.
“This is a crossroads,” he said, adding that the summer will be a time to re-build the SA into a more responsible governing student body.
A fraudulent election
Lovell’s statement comes after the recommendation from Laliberte to “only recognize election results based on a fair, open and impartial process.”
Citing the investigation of the election led by UW-Whitewater officials, Laliberte summed up the findings:
“The Student Association failed to follow its own Election Bylaws, including:
- The lack of availability of Party Registration Forms;
- The lack of a public and open debate;
- The enforcement of a bylaw, which had previously been stricken by the Student Association Senate.
There was a lack of independent processes.
- Irregularities in election complaint assignments;
- The University Court failed to fully process election complaints.
There were ballot irregularities.” (Click here to see the report.)
Lovell wrote that the administration’s decision to not recognize the results of the SA election “is warranted under the circumstances based on the egregious nature of the many procedural flaws in the election process.”
Investigating the Student Association
The investigation into the SA elections resulted from complaints filed by opposing party People of Change, which hosted a write-in campaign after it was thrown off the ballot.
Dakota Hall, who tried to run for president under the People of Change party, said he was “flabbergasted” at every stage of the election process.
“The current SA is essentially a dictatorship who controls 23 million dollars,” he said. “They very blatantly say they don’t want oversight from their advisor, and there has been no oversight during the whole process.”
He filed complaints with the university after realizing the SA internal mechanisms were ineffective, he said.
When the UWM administration announced the investigation, Pelicaric accused the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs of “eroding” student rights and “exploiting” the shared governance process.
“Your covert manipulation and inconsistent leadership have caused systemic issues within your division that have undermined and eroded both internal and external relations within,” Pelicaric wrote in the email.
Last week the SA positioned themselves against building a new Student Union, citing the “negative climate” of shared governance resulting in part from the investigation into its election.
The “Allied Student Voice” party won the now-invalid election. According to an email sent by Anthony DeWees, the acting chair of SA’s Independent Elections Commission, the turnout was 12.9% of the student body. Nathan Uibel and Vince Rolbiecki ran for president and vice president, respectively, on the ASV ticket, as did the majority of the senators.
The role of the Student Association
This is an unprecedented move on the part of the administration; while there has been conflict for decades, never in the 39-year history of UWM’s shared governance has the administration not validated the student representatives.
The SA derives its power from state statue 36.09(5), passed in 1974 to allow students a legal share in the “rights and responsibilities” of university governance. All UW-System universities require student involvement concerning student life, services and interests. This is called “shared governance.” There is no mandate that the SA act in this role; it is simply the group that claims to represent students.
The students of each institution or campus subject to the responsibilities and powers of the board, the president, the chancellor and the faculty shall be active participants in the immediate governance of and policy development for such institutions. As such, students shall have primary responsibility for the formulation and review of policies concerning student life, services and interests. Students in consultation with the chancellor and subject to the final confirmation of the board [of Regents] shall have the responsibility for the disposition of those student fees which constitute substantial support for campus student activities. 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.