UPDATE: Senate supports Blugold Commitment 17-15

Story by The Spectator staff

Posted: 6:30 p.m. 12/08/09

[Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more updates on www.spectatornews.com this week and in Thursday’s issue of The Spectator.]

After being passed by Student Senate late Monday night, it is likely that the Blugold Commitment will be presented to the UW System Board of Regents at their February meeting, Student Body President Michael Umhoefer said.
Senate passed a resolution 17-15 supporting the tuition increase with an amendment to modify the tuition increase to $1,200 over four years with 40 percent financial aid, which is subject to campus administration before February.
Senators spent the majority of the evening debating how to interpret last week’s “skewed” campus wide student survey results and whether reducing the increase amount and financial aid amount would be a sufficient compromise.

Umhoefer said he was concerned that senators would look at the survey results and immediately shut down the Blugold Commitment in any form, along with possible amendments to lower the increase below $1,000.

“That would be just as detrimental as voting it down,” he said. “I felt that was not a direction that we should go.”

Early in the meeting, a majority of senators voted to decrease the initial amount of $1,500 to $1,200. However, Umhoefer said it was unfortunate that senate was unable to negotiate a middle ground on financial assistance and that it became a polarizing issue, leading senators to the divisive vote on the resolution as a whole. During the meeting, senators named assistance amounts such as 30 and 35 percent as alternate options to 40 percent.

“There were groups of students on both sides – 30 percent and 40 percent – that said they supported it (the Blugold Commitment) but wouldn’t vote it unless it was the number that they wanted,” Umhoefer said.

Sen. Jake Johnson disagrees with Umhoefer that the financial aid discussion caused such a divisive vote.

“It was about people wanting more specific information, more follow through,” Johnson said.

The Blugold Commitment doesn’t offer tangible solutions to the problems the university has, Johnson said. His problem with the proposal is its lack of specific goals.

“It’s a large program, and if we don’t even have basic general ideas, how can we vote in favor of it?” he said.

The Board of Regents is meeting later this week to discuss differential tuition, according to their agenda.

But now that Student Senate has approved the Blugold Commitment, Johnson said, senate needs to continue to play an active role by getting specific information as soon as possible.

Johnson said he’s upset by the senate vote, adding they let down the student body.

“We took their opinion and said that we don’t really have to follow it if we don’t want to.”

At the Regent’s presentation, Umhoefer said the board will likely request to hear from students on both sides of the debate and there is time for open comments during the meeting.

– David Taintor contributed to this story.