Stout students vote to end affiliation with United Council

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The results of a referendum sponsored by the Stout Student Association were certified at the organization’s most recent meeting, ridding the university of its affiliation with United Council.

The $1.35 added to each student’s tuition bill had paid for Stout’s membership to the student lobbying and research group, which UW-Eau Claire and most other public schools and colleges in Wisconsin are part of.

There are 23 campuses represented by United Council and about 140,000 students, according the the Wisconsin United Council’s Web site.

“I feel that students spoke,” Stout Student Association President Amanda Underbakke said. “Granted, it was a close vote, but that’s what happened.”

The Stoutonia, UW-Stout’s student newspaper, reported on Jan. 25 the results of the Dec. 13 Internet vote. Those against staying with United Council totaled 245 votes while 237 voted to stay with the lobbying group. There were 61 undecided votes.

“I’m not surprised that Stout pulled out,” Eau Claire Student Senate President Justin Hentges said. “Their student government didn’t like United Council for personal reasons mostly.”

Hentges said it is “fool-hardy” for any school to not be involved with a lobbying organization.

“It’s kind of stupid to just pull out of something just because you don’t like the way it’s going,” he said. “If you’re a part of the organization or not, (United Council’s) going to affect you. So why not work from the inside to fix what you don’t like.”

The Stoutonia reported that United Council President Jorna Taylor sent a letter to the Stout Student Association voicing concerns about the way the votes were collected, including confusion about polling times and the fact some former students had access to vote due to mass e-mailings.

Taylor and other members of United Council could not be contacted Sunday.

“Granted we are going to lose some contacts, but we’ll just have to work harder,” Underbakke said.

Eau Claire Student Senate Vice President Erin Brandt said the benefits of United Council outweigh drawbacks.

“I think United Council is really important,” Brandt said. “They do what we can’t do … United Council is not even two blocks from the capital and that’s their job, to lobby for students.”

Underbakke said she didn’t believe the money involved was the issue, but rather the variety of conflicts that have arisen.

“I could go either way on this situation,” Underbakke said of her personal feelings about United Council. “Last semester was the first one I was heavily involved with (United Council).”

“Our administration is kind of annoyed because it’s going to take about $2 a check to refund students their $1.35,” Underbakke said.

Brandt and Hentges said there isn’t discussion at Eau Claire about disbanding from United Council.”There’s been discussion on the direction of the council, but not to get out of it,” Hentges said.