My Response to the College Republicans Claims

As my buddy and fellow blogger AJ points out, there were some serious factual errors in the College Republicans Letter to the Editor in today’s Badger Herald.  But shortly after, the comment section exploded with dozens of posts criticizing the bias of ASM, claiming that ASM leaders are making bank off of student money, and overall saying we overstepped our bounds with regard to the Budget Repair Bill.  Here’s my response to their comments:

I usually don’t comment on the Badger Herald because its generally not worth it, but in this case it seems necessary. To assume that you know my political agenda or affiliation, or to even think that you know who I voted for is ignorant (I voted Walker, by the way). ASM’s stance is based purely upon our defense of higher education. You elected us to stand up for this University, so regardless of who is in office–Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian–we will oppose anything that counters or hurts our fine institution. We strive only to represent and advocate for students on issues of importance to students, which is why we didn’t touch the issues of high school teachers or other public employees.

We have certainly given thought to the implications of the bill, and we understand why Governor Walker is proposing. The current fiscal climate in the state is undesirable, to say the least, and Governor Walker is looking for ways to address a budget deficit without raising taxes.

Keep in mind that ASM is comprised of students from across the political spectrum, but our ultimate objective is the protection of the university that we love. That said, we feel that the bill takes steps that exceed budgetary or fiscal considerations and undermine the rights of the graduate Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, and Project Assistants. In ASM, we represent undergraduate and graduate students alike, so while just over 9000 graduate students are directly affected by this bill, our undergraduate population will also suffer. Without the benefits of collective bargaining for things such as working hours or tuition remission, we will lose the ability to attract high quality graduate students and professors. Once the attractiveness of these positions is reduced, our University suffers, both in terms of world rankings and in terms of academic experience for students.

In terms of pay for student government leaders, it seems most people have their mind made up at this point. But just for reference, I logged 46 hours last week. I make an average of $166.50 per week minus taxes. I believe that calculates to $3.62 per hour, without including taxes. Maybe I should find a new job…

-Brandon Williams, ASM Chair
bjwilliams5@wisc.edu

Understand that this was written in a bit of passion; I’m sick of these misconceptions flying around.  Nevertheless, I think it was important for me to clarify a number of things even though a lot of the BH commentors are likely trolling for a response such as mine.

-BJW

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7 Comments on “My Response to the College Republicans Claims”

  1. Adam J says:

    Gotta pay the troll toll…

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Campus First and Matt Guidry, Brandon Williams. Brandon Williams said: My response to @UWGOP, @NPIsono, and @weatheradman's claims about ASM's stance on SB11 >> http://wp.me/pPosz-5i @TheCampusFirst […]

  3. Lindsay Bembenek says:

    Brandon and Adam,

    As you both know, I am a huge proponent of student advocacy. Regardless of the ideological or legislative positions they choose to take, students have voices and interests that go unrepresented, and I encourage students to speak up. In the case of ASM’s communication regarding the Budget Repair Bill, the voice that goes unrepresented is conservatives on campus.

    Advocacy can take many forms. Here, the most appropriate aim of advocacy should have been education. Your email said, “It is our responsibility as your student government to keep you informed of these developments.” I absolutely agree with this claim, and if information was the sole aim of your communication, I would not have a problem. However, ASM has overstepped its bounds. Statements like “Governor Walker made the single greatest attack on the quality of your education since he took office just over a month ago — and perhaps the most unprecedented attack on higher education in Wisconsin history” are loaded with bias. And today, Adam tweeted: “We MUST defend our students in any cases. Its never ok to not defend them”. Once you take it upon yourself to decide what “attacks” and “defends” students and take subsequent action, you ignore and reject those students whose opinions differ from yours. As such, the reaction of the College Republicans is a due response.

    In an effort to include diverse opinions on campus, ASM would do well to consult with the College Republicans in the future. If the student government fails in addressing Republican students, I seriously question its ability to address Republican legislators.

    Lindsay Bembenek

    • Adam J says:

      It’s in our Constitution (ours as ASM not the USA or Wisconsin) for the “defense of the right of students and campus workers to organize in their own interests;”

      I understand the confusion and perhaps our Constitution needs an amendment, but until it does, this IS the purview of ASM.

      Additionally,
      “(e) to take action on behalf of the student body in general, and to specifically work for:
      i. The expansion of student power in all aspects of student governance;
      ii. The recognition of access to education as a basic human right;
      iii. The enforcement of civil rights guarantees in all aspects of university life and policy;
      iv. The guarantee of the ability of students, staff, and faculty to function without undue financial stress;
      v. The protection of public education;”

      The College Republicans have a problem with the Constitution. And that’s fine. However, Brandon and I were elected to uphold that Constitution and I doubt either of us would hesitate in a second to make the same exact decision that we made regarding this bill.

      -AJ

      • Lindsay Bembenek says:

        Adam,

        Even regardless of that language the Constitution, your responsibility is to represent students. Dismissing the CRs concerns as “a load of bullshit” on your blog shows a complete lack of respect and zero attempt at working with them.

        Lindsay

    • Brandon W. says:

      Hi Lindsay,

      Thank you very much for your thoughtful response. To much of it, I agree. The rhetoric of the email, which I did not write but I nevertheless accept responsibility for, was too hastily and passionately written to accurately reflect a truly unbiased student opinion. For that I am sorry.

      But I will not apologize for the subsequent actions of our organization. ASM strives to advocate for what is best for our University; this I am sure you are aware of. I believe I’ve already spoken at length to why I believe that we need to oppose many of the provisions of this bill that affects our graduate students (keeping in mind that I do not oppose all of this bill.)

      In the future, ASM should do a better job of reaching out to Republican students, a group that I once considered myself an active member of. In a number of texts this morning with Adam, I expressed that I wanted to write a LTE in response to the CRs, but he mentioned that he wanted to discuss with them ways to improve the situation without becoming adversarial. Hopefully, this approach to the CRs can be used proactively instead of reactively.

  4. […] After more commentary, ASM Chair Brandon Williams (who also voted for Scott Walker) responded: […]


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