The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Referendum taken off Student Senate election ballot

In a decision made Friday, Interim Chancellor Vicki Lord Larson removed one of two referendums from the ballot for this week’s Student Senate elections because it violated UW System policy.

The referendum, which dealt with UW-Eau Claire’s membership to United Council of UW Students, contradicted the required wording in Board of Regents Code 87-3.

After finding out about the violation of policy Friday morning, Larson said she consulted student leaders, administrators and System legal counsel leading up to her decision.

“It was not in an easy decision,” Larson said. “I thought it needed to be done because the referendum was not in compliance with regent policy.”

Story continues below advertisement

Regardless of the outcome of any vote taken had she not removed it from the ballot, the referendum would have still been in violation of the policy and therefore would have required invalidation, she said.

Student Senate passed a bill to change the original language of the referendum at its Dec. 12 meeting by a vote of 16-6.

“When Senate passed that bill, there were two United Council staffers at that meeting who told us that the language we were looking at passing was against Regents policy,” said Finance Commission Director Ray French, who introduced the bill. “It was the will of the Senate, and it was intentional.”

President Aaron Olson said the decision to alter the wording stemmed from the belief that the language required in the policy was “non-neutral” and that, because the question was written in the affirmative, it was “guaranteed to pass.”

“Another goal of this whole campaign is to . bring to light United Council election tactics and to educate the students on what they’re really voting on and who is really representing them,” French said.

In a recent letter to the Board of Regents, Olson, French and Vice President Emily Ascher provided notification of and further explained Senate’s decision.

The letter stated, “Considering the non-neutral diction for United Council in referendums, its election tactics seen in the past, the general lack of need for genuine student input, we must conclude that membership is an unfortunate inevitability. Our only option remaining is reforming the referendum language to a neutral manner.

We infer that a referendum giving $100 per student to buy the Governor a new residence would pass with flying colors, as long as it was worded in the affirmative.”

Vice Chancellor Andy Soll said a decision to take a student-generated referendum off the ballot is “highly unusual,” explaining that, in virtually all other situations, referendum language is not governed by System policy.

“We firmly believe in student governance rights, but in this case (Larson) couldn’t do something that violated System policy,” Soll said.

Kate Dixon, university relations specialist and media spokeswoman for the UW System, said Friday that she could find no System representative who was informed enough on this issue to comment.

At its Feb. 27 meeting, Senate introduced a bill entitled “Changing the Wording of the United Council, Inc. Referendum.”

However, the bill was withdrawn because any changes to a referendum must be set into motion at least 60 days before the student body votes, according to Senate regulations.

Larson met with Olson, Ascher and French Friday afternoon, who told her they had decided to remove the referendum ballot, but that after consulting with Parliamentarian Nicholas Zinser, they discovered there was nothing in the bylaws to allow them to
counter legislation.

After taking that fact into consideration, and discussing the issue with UW System Legal Counsel Chris Ashley, Larson made her decision.

“My rationale was that since the referendum is invalid, I thought we would be deceiving students,” Larson said.

Olson agreed, however, he said that though he believes it would have been misleading to students, it was not deceptive.

“I didn’t want them to feel mislead; I didn’t want them to feel betrayed,” he said. “We feel that we’ve made our point about UC because we have made them come down here for the last month and actually talk to students because they felt threatened by different language.”

Brian Tanner, legislative affairs director for United Council, said the organization is willing to work with the newly elected leadership during the next Senate session.

“We look forward to working with students at UW-Eau Claire to repair this relationship between UWEC and United Council,” he said. “We have a long history of working together on issues that benefit students at UWEC, and next year is especially important with the state budget being set.”

Although Tanner said United Council would give no official comment on the violation of System policy, or any of the plans it would have to take on the issue, Olson said Senate was prepared for the worst.

“We were informed that they had contacted . legal counsel and were threatening to pose the university up for a lawsuit,” Olson said. “They’re playing hardball then.”

As far as writing a new question, Olson said he has heard of plans to draft legislation that would bring a referendum to the student body possibly by the end of the semester, but that it would depend on the views of Senate’s new leadership.

According to System policy, a referendum is required every two years regarding each institution’s United Council membership; the last referendum took place in spring 2005.

“The possibility for another referendum is out there,” Soll said. “But in my mind there is no reason to have another referendum.”

Olson agreed, saying that if another issue arises regarding the United Council referendum, Senate will be ready to stand up for students’ rights.

“United Council is going to get by on a technicality this time,” Olson said, “but they’re going to need to come actually start investing in students and caring about what they think, or next time there won’t be a technicality and they’ll be booted off campus.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Spectator intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. The Spectator does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Referendum taken off Student Senate election ballot