from The Badger Herald, Monday, October 17, 2005

SSFC to lose budget power

by John Potratz

The Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC) believed they were successful after their referendum passed on the Associated Students of Madison (ASM) ballot Thursday, but at the end of the day their effort may have ousted student government officials from the schoolís financial decision-making process.

The referendum prohibits the Student Services Financial Committee (SSFC), the financial branch of ASM, from hearing auxiliary budget proposals from any University of Wisconsin service not paying all of their employees more than ten dollars per hour.

SLAC proposed the referendum in order to obligate various UW services - including the Wisconsin Union, University Health Services and Recreation Sports - to pay all of their employees, including Limited Term Employees (LTEs), a "livable wage."

But because the referendum only applies to SSFC, which as of last week had the limited power of making "recommendations" to Chancellor John Wiley on how the student-derived auxiliary segregated fee funding was allocated, Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell said the committee will now have no power as long as the referendum is in effect.

"They're taking themselves out of the ball game," Bazzell said. "If that was their intention, they've been wildly successful [but] I'm not sure that's what they had in mind."

Bazzell added the referendumís passing is unfortunate because students will now play less of a role in deciding how their funding is allocated to the university.

"It tells SSFC not to participate," he said. "This actually took themselves out of recommending to the chancellor … they have a lesser voice."

Yet SLAC member Ashok Kumar said by not bringing auxiliary budgets before SSFC, the university is violating shared governance and could be brought to court by ASM.

"This may have to go to the courts if thatís the case," Kumar said."They can't just have control over [segregated] fees."

Kumar added the university would have the power to set all auxiliary budgets.

"If they had control, they could arbitrarily increase and decrease it," he said. "They donít have power to do that."

But ASM Chair Eric Varney said a suit against the university is unlikely.

"I don't foresee it happening," he said, adding the outcome of the situation is still uncertain. "I really don't know what's going to happen."

The major catalyst for the referendum was to provide university LTEs, who are paid minimum wage, with a higher "livable wage" slightly above $10 per hour. Because SLAC and union members felt LTEs were replacing many formally unionized positions, the referendum was introduced to set a new higher and standardized minimum for all employees to be paid.

In light of the referendum, Memorial Union Director Mark Guthier said a conscious effort to replace unionized workers with LTEs "couldn't be further from the truth."

"Anyone who is in [an] LTE position with us is because we couldnít find a student employee," he said. "LTEs are in positions that are supposed to be part-time student employees."

Guthier said if SSFC and, therefore, students are exempted from the budgeting process, it will be "unfortunate."

"We're surprised by it," he said. "We would have [liked] the opportunity to discuss it before it went to referendum."

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