Though the legality is still being debated, for now the spring referendum on April 17 through 19 will include the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s relationship with United Council.
The purpose of the United Council is acting as a lobbying organization to the state on behalf of UW-Platteville’s students.
Student Senate approved a motion to place the United Council relationship on the spring referendum during the March 11 meeting.
At the following meeting on March 18, Johnathon Predaina accused the Senate of violating Wisconsin Open Meetings Law, demanded the members reconsider their action and threatened to press charges if they refused.
“We discussed possibly rescinding the action during the (April 8) meeting,” president William Kuehni said. “We will vote on it at next week’s meeting.”
Until then, Senate is working with Paul Ericson and the UW System Legal Counsel to determine whether the action taken did indeed violate Wisconsin OML.
If found in violation, Senate will rescind their action and remove United Council from the referendum, Kuehni said.
“As of right now it is being viewed as a violation of the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law,” Kuehni said. “Discussion with Paul Ericson still has to be had.”
Predaina believes Senate will “do the right thing” and has no desire to take action against them.
Instead, Predaina has moved his attention to informing students about the role of United Council in UW-Platteville.
“All referendums do is take up the attention of the (United Council) staff,” Predaina said, “who could be doing more important things like helping to represent students.”
Each student pays a mandatory fee each semester, totaling over $40,000 a year, to have United Council lobby on their behalf. If desired, students can go through a process to refund the $3.
“A lot of students might not understand the value of United Council,” Predaina said, “ but that $3 goes towards a lot of amazing stuff.”
United Council runs campaigns advocating for such things as lower tuition, increased financial aid for all students and campus safety according to an e-mail sent to students April 9 by United Council Southwest Field Organizer Jelena Gagula.
“Right now, with the economics issues of the time, I think we need to focus on the economic issues facing the students,” Kuehni said. “Most of the time (United Council) is a benefit to students andI love the social issues and concerns they are tackling, but I think we have to focus on the economics.”
Kuehni also said that until recently, United Council has lacked a noticeable presence on campus.
“Another part of United Council is getting out there and being seen,” Kuehni said. “And winning some things for the students. Lately, and I could be wrong, but I don’t believe there has been one of those defining victories.”
However, he is hopeful for the implementation of a tuition cap and acknowledges the help United Council has lent to that effort.
“I’m fairly certain that the students understand the value of United Council,” Predaina said. “I really don’t see United Council losing the vote.”
Kuehni is cautiously optimistic of United Council’s membership surviving the referendum.
“United Council, when there is a referendum, does a very good job of bringing people in to get them to vote,” Kuehni said. “I would say (support for United Council) is about fifty-fifty, (judging) from emails we have received from students.”
Regardless of the outcome, Kuehni has no worry for the future.
“If we stay a member that is great,” Kuehni said. “If (the referendum) goes through and we don’t stay a member, we’ll be okay.”