Calculatedly Candid Open Letter to the United Council of UW Students, Inc.

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The purpose of this piece is not to disturb the peace — although I cannot control how sensitive types will misinterpret and perhaps internalize this organizational critique as a personal putdown — but rather, to explain why United Council (UC) has struggled in recent years.

UC needs to move beyond its normal operations. Leadership, rank, and file must do more than the usual United Council routine, which proves ineffectual in practical policy outcomes:

1) Why spend so much time trying to save its own skin — time made by ducking phone calls from alumni, because staff are preoccupied and meeting internally about their own woes — by presenting to a small slice of SGA leaders on campus to pitch an affirmative fundraiser referendum and sell another year of membership, without so much as showing concern for the opinions of the non-SGA-official student plebeians? Gotta be home by your curfew, eh?

2) Why stop at electing members to leadership positions, which don’t carry any cachet outside the extremely niche field of student government? Look out for the interests of non-leaders, too.

We can’t all be grassroots organizers or attain employment in Student Affairs. Even fewer of us can launch into politics (unless sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, which indirectly dictates our national policy and therefore the type of leaders we get, in undemocratic fashion, via institutional positioning and media priming).

3) Why talk about unconscious victimization of certain groups, when we’re all blatantly victimized by declining job prospects — or at least know someone who is — irrespective of UC’s head-in-the-sand attitude towards this?

To be certain, some students pine for the verbal nectar you give their itching ears: They want to feel as if they’re changing the world by attending meetings about internal UC business (to contrive stuff to do that looks good on a resume); making it easier for newer students to graduate (and therefore compete with them for jobs they might not even qualify for anyway); and fruitlessly lobbying for UW funding (of which $250 million in cuts were finalized, thanks in part to my grassroots organizing as the anti-UC).

Those are the activities that comprise the inner workings and visible doings of UC. So, how does United Council improve life for actual students? Let us examine some possibilities:

1) The tuition freeze on 2-year colleges? Not UC’s doing!

Governor Scott Walker — the very antithesis of everything UC purports to represent — proposed the tuition lock! UC cannot claim credit for what is politically inevitable.

I’m surprised United Council does not take credit for desirable weather in the Madison area! Such grandiosity would suit UC’s self-importance.

2) Sending UC staff to campus to explain what UC does? NOT helping students! It is merely self-serving promotional activity paid for by the very same students’ UC membership fees.

“Pay us, because we do important things for you, such as persuade you we’re important.” Hah!

3) Enhance the job prospects of students? No; United Council has never concerned itself with the job prospects of UW students generally, which is a damned shame and totally dismissing a valid motivation for thousands of student members.

Board members are too cowardly to challenge the UW System or professional programs at member campuses to produce job placement rates or 1-year post hoc occupational outcomes for those who recently earned their degree. It’s not that difficult to measure, but weak-kneed UC lacks the political will to fight that much-needed regulatory battle.

The only way to promote action on this underserved issue of school-to-work accountability within the UW System is to shame officials into responsive policymaking via blog articles.

Although this piece has posted United Council into the steel for its inaction on the matter, that is galvanize student leaders into utilizing UC’s core competence grassroots organizing into holding UW regents, chancellors, and their underlings at each campus accountable for how well their respective schools’ promise of “career development” has panned out in terms of wage premium (or the lack thereof) for some quantified plurality (or non-majority) of graduates.

By doing nothing, United Council is content that the UW System continues its exploitation of those students aspiring to become gainfully employed professionals. The knowledgeable bystander becomes an accomplice!

Even among “soft sciences” majors, you’ll find this attribute of career orientation applies to MOST students! I doubt few attendees of UC General Assemblies would say having a decent-paying job after college is NOT important. With that said…

…WHY isn’t United Council being directed to work on this?! Are student leaders so arrogantly self-assured that they’ll “have theirs” after degree conferral?

Dream on — we need collective action on this issue: If not for self-preservation of your own career track, then in altruistic solidarity. (That’s your lingo; those are your shibboleths. This SHOULD resonate, unless you’re being contrarian for contrary’s sake.)