5-26-10 Vice-Chair Johnson May Report

(WARNING! Lots of text ahead.  This is verbatim from the report I have submitted to Student Council and Chair Williams (also known as Brandon W. here on The Campus First!) and as such is wordy.  I will be writing a more user friendly version in the next week or so, highlighting a few points of my goals. 

Wednesday, 26 May, 2010

Re: Chair Report

During my tenure as Vice-Chair thus far, I have been focused on learning the intriciacies of the position and what is expected of it.  This includes, but is not limited to, United Council organization, planning fall campaigns, and communicating with other chairs about individual and overall goals for the organization during the 17th Session.

Specifically, most of my work has been regarding the upcoming United Council convention and working on the logistics for the event from afar.  This has proved to be a great challenge in communicating with interested members of ASM, staff, United Council board members, and in making arrangements for transportation and lodging once at the event.  The details of organizing the delegation’s travel proved to be more difficult than expected and I am grateful for the experience of Vice-Chair Emeritus Templeton and ASM staff member Kelly Krein in helping me wade through administrative details and in how things have been done in the past.

I have also spent a considerable amount of time writing legislation for the June ASM Student Council meeting regarding campaigns for the fall that have been referred to me or the External Affairs committee.  Since the committee had not met before the end of school, I took up the role of examining and writing these proposals myself.  Each of them requires more fine-tuning and I expect fruitful conversation to take place on June 12.

As for my specific goals for the 17th session, I would like to focus on a comprehensive program enhancing communication for all levels of ASM: from ASM to administration (via Shared Gov and individual meetings), intra-ASM (committee to committee to Council), and from ASM to the general student body.

Focusing on each one individually will not have the lasting impression we wish to leave with this session and each MUST be tackled as one cohesive policy.  I will be expecting much out of the chairs, particularly the open committee chairs, this session and will be in almost-daily contact to help them reach our collective goals. I am already looking forward to the fall kickoff!

For the details of each part of my plan, we look at the constituent parts.  First, we have ASM/Administration communication.  To reach these goals we must focus on three key changes that will be useful in the 17th Session.

  1. The Chief of Staff position will serve as a point person for ASM communication with administration in consultation with the Chair/Vice-Chair.  The CoS should have contacts within the administration and should be able to connect committee chairs to key players in the administration.
  2. Each chair should identify relevant members of the administration and contact them ASAP to coordinate meetings.  Chair Fergus of Ac. Affairs would be in contact with the CFYE for example and Chair Polstein of Leg. Affairs should speak with Don Nelson in the Dean of Students Office about state lobbying.  These, of course, are merely one example for each and should be expanded upon.
  3. Establish a REGULAR meeting time with these contacts.  Once every other month or so would probably be fine.  The one exception would be Chair Polstein as the biennial budget will likely consume many more meetings with Mr. Nelson.

For intra-ASM communication the focus is two-fold:

  1. The Shared Gov Directors MUST be competant and willing to engage with the other committees and the committee chairs must also be willing to engage these directors with their campaigns and ideas.
  2.  Committee chairs should bring forward more ideas/campaigns to Council, not necessarily for approval but for discussion on how to proceed.  We all know emailing the list is not the best process usually to encourage responses so by bringing it straight to Council during a meeting, we ensure a marginal amount of awareness and discussion.


Finally, the ASM/student body channel needs to be wide and vast, but not crudely so.  A specific and limited goal needs to be set in order to have incremental progress.  We cannot expect to be perfectly relevant and respected on campus within the span of a single session.  We need to set a good example so that other sessions may follow and achieve what we simply are not able to in the time allowed.  However, my specific ideas for campus outreach are numerous but the highlights are outlined below.

  1. Freshman focus.  It is clear that many ideas become implanted the first few months on campus so the earlier we hit students with the message of what ASM is and why they should care, the better.  SOAR would be ideal but this year, the resource fair was cancelled so that tactic must be re-evaluated.  Representative Bemis had the excellent idea of freshman dorm orientations to reach out to freshman early in the year.  Each dorm has a central commons area, even if its just a few couchs and a bunch of chairs.  ASM should sponsor a session at each dorm (including the private dorms like Lucky, etc.) and spend an hour talking about what ASM is and how they can get involved.  It would also essentially serve as a backup kickoff, or can be used earlier in the year to encourage even more people to attend the kickoff.
  2.  Social media should be something ALL members of council engage in.  Use your facebook, twitter, and blogs to promote ASM ideas and to encourage discussion on pending legislation or to gather input as to what we should work on.  For those members of council without facebook/twitter/or a blog, I would highly encourage that they look into getting one as the potential is extraordinary.
  3. Working on issues that DIRECTLY affect students is the surest path to success.  Enacting feel good legislation (“We support the idea of puppies and kitties as adorable animals” is a good example of that) may give us the temporary boost in ratings (if we actually took ratings) but long term support is built from actual on-campus work like expanding library hours, expanding financial aid, promoting smart growth of on-campus facilities, improving the reputation and value of the UW degree, and helping students live their daily lives better.
  4. Focusing on THESE issues is how we ensure that the student body will actually care what we do.


I’m excited for this session and I look forward to enacting these plans.

Respectfully Submitted,

Adam M. Johnson

Vice-Chair, Associated Students of Madison


Report 5-25

I have requested (and it is included in our Bylaws) that all committee Chairs submit Chair reports as a portion of their stipend.  As my commitment to those who elected me, I will also be completing these reports on a weekly basis.  Hopefully, this will serve as a method of being accountable to you, but please let me know if you would like additional information or have more questions about my work or the work of ASM.


In settling into the role as Chair, there were a number of administrative tasks to handle.  All Chairs have to be included on the University payroll, so I met with Financial Specialist Shana Treu to ensure that all paperwork was in line.  Additionally, ASM hires hourly positions, mostly in the press office, that are under my supervision.

I also held a meeting with Lisa Aarli to discuss staff roles within ASM, and how they would work with students for the coming year.  We discussed some of the staff projects over the summer and the work that each staff member will be doing.  More information is available upon request, specifically if you are curious in the staff jobs over the summer.

Lisa and I also discussed the ASM Foundation.  For those of you who don’t know, the ASM Foundation (http://uwstudents.org/index.htm) is an organization that was created around the 12th Session of ASM as a way to aid ASM through funding outside of segregated fees.  In the words of the mission statement:

“The Foundation’s mission is to provide financial, administrative, professional, legal and such other services and support as may be appropriate to the Associated Students of Madison. As a future 501(c)3 organization, the Foundation achieves this mission through charitable, educational and scientific work.”

Currently, the organization is in disarray, and there are only two of five non-student board members still within contact and there are no students serving on the board.  The two board members, despite being out of contact for some time, have both expressed interest in being reappointed.  In my opinion, the organization, which still possesses a sizeable amount of money, needs some rejuvenation and some fresh ideas.  As we move forward with examining it, I will keep you updated.

Tenant Support Services

I have received a tentative RFP (Request for Proposal) document from UW purchasing services.  This document is about 40 pages of legal information about how our contract with a non-university provider to offer tenant support and legal information for student renters is going to operate.  It details the specific services that ASM is requesting that they provide.  This is a huge step in the right direction for ASM, as we get closer to providing services for students.

On Thursday, I am meeting with Carl Hubbard from UW purchasing to discuss the RFP as we refine it and prepare it for release.  Once it is released, providers will begin offering proposals about how they would implement the programs we would like to see in exchange for the $40,000 in the ASM internal budget.  Then a team of evaluators will rate the providers, and one will be awarded a contract.  There is still a possibility that this will be implemented in time for the next rental season (which will hopefully be pushed back as we continue to fight for that at the city level.)

Other Items

This next week, I have several meetings lined up, so that you are aware:

  • Tuesday – Memorial Union Design Committee Meeting 6:00-9:00
  • Wednesday – Meeting with Former ASM VC Tom Templeton to go over transition materials
  • Wednesday – Meeting with UW Legal to discuss CFACT Lawsuit
  • Thursday – Meeting with Carl Hubbard to review RFP Document
  • Thursday – Meeting with Patrick Callan (Union President) to discuss ASM-Union relations
  • Friday – Meeting with Chancellor Biddy Martin to go over summer ASM work

As requested at the last student council meeting, I will inform everyone of the discussion at the meeting with Chancellor Martin.

Respectfully Submitted,

Brandon John Williams

Chair, Associated Students of Madison

A Pause from Campus Activity…

…to wish everyone a Happy Mother’s Day!

High Speed Rail: Monona Terrace? Eh…

Apologies for the obscene spacing between posts recently.  I will have a comprehensive wrap-up of 16th Session of ASM as well as a  run-down of what has been happening in the first week of 17th Session sometime in the next few days (it’s just finals to study for right?).

So the Twitter-verse exploded around 11:30 or so today with news that Monona Terrace was chosen to be the location of Madison’s station in the new High Speed Rail network that will be linking the upper midwest.  The Terrace beat out other contenders Yahara Station, and Kohl Center Station for the governor’s announcement this morning.

Now, there is plenty of good to be said about the location.  It’s crazy close for students, and for everyone else in the downtown for that matter, it’s a picturesque and iconic facility already with existing rail lines underneath it, and it’s a block from the capital.  However, this post will focus more on the negatives of this selection and I will be ignoring entirely the debate over whether or not this whole project makes any fiscal sense (which is certainly an interesting debate).

  1. Economic Development – part of the reason for selecting either the airport or Yahara station was to push for economic development in the area.  Yahara station especially was lauded because it sits about a mile from the capital down the East Washington corridor, right smack dab in the center of where Madison is planning on pouring money into investing and rebuilding.  Plus there are mountains of research that show the success rail stations have in promoting economic development around them.  The Terrace is pretty much built up on all sides with pretty newish buildings already, so this point is completely wasted on the Terrace location.
  2. Part of longer term strategic thinking –  Yahara was at a great location to be a regional hub (perhaps via a Regional Transit Authority that was created last fall…) in a comprehensive commuter rail line.  Plans had been developed showing commuter rail coming in through the suburbs (Sun Prarie, etc.) connecting the regional high speed rail network, and then going through the downtown and campus (with stops at Monona Terrace, the Kohl Center, the UW hospital, and others farther out to Middleton).  This plan is pretty shot with the Terrace location because there is not enough existing space to allow for a commuter rail line and the high speed one at the same time.  It’s still possible for it to work out, but much more unlikely and unweildy.
  3. Residents of Dane County at large- who wants to drive into Madison during rush hour to catch a train to Milwaukee?  You would spend more time in traffic than it would take to drive there.  The purpose of Yahara or the airport would be to mitigate that concern as they are not as cloistered in the downtown as the Terrace or the Kohl Center.  It would take MUCH less time to go to Yahara from the East Side than to the Terrace.  While granted that the same problem could be posed from the western suburbs, it would still be easy enough for those in Middleton to take the wider loop around Mendota than to go downtown. 
  4. Viability – I had concerns already that this project would not be very economically beneficial (trains are expensive…) but by placing it the downtown, off the main track, it ensures more time delays.  The train essentially has to back into the station now from the proposed Yahara Station site.  This additional delay will add even more time onto the trip, making the difference between convential transit very minor. 

These are the few big ones I could think of in the ten minutes of writing this, and I hope it makes sense.  I still feel that Yahara would have been the better choice but if we have to have a train station and Yahara couldn’t be it, Monona Terrace was my second choice.