A Few Reasons to Be Thankful

*disclaimer- This will be a more personal post than what I usually write.

As I wait out the last few hours of my DNA sample prep for the day on the night before Thanksgiving, I’m realizing I have a lot to be thankful for this year. I graduated and got a job a month later, I’ve been able to travel for work (Louisiana, Texas, Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota so far). If all things go as planned I will be free from my student loan debt by next July. My family is doing great and even though I won’t be able to see them this weekend, I’ll be able to spend a week in Wisconsin over Christmas (with my new nephew Kallan!) I’ve met some good new friends in San Francisco and am still trying to import some old ones here (Michael, this means you. And Fiz is now closer!). My roommate and I are going to be upgrading apartments to a 2-bedroom finally, and I will be keeping it clean (yes Melissa and Leslie, I know you’re laughing, but I’ve been doing a good job so far). I’ve been able to work out quite a bit and am looking into spring or summer marathons. I could go on for awhile, but I also want to update you on one big thing.

The Cross Country Scholarship I started and talked about here has officially been approved and is taking donations! This year, two seniors from Case High School’s Cross Country team will be receiving $500 scholarships funded by donations from alumni, friends, and parents. This is what I am most thankful for, the chance to be able to give back to my hometown. My success and good fortune would mean nothing if I couldn’t use it to help others. I’m asking my friends and family, if you were planning on getting me a Christmas present, please instead donate to this scholarship. Any amount would be extremely helpful, and nothing would make me happier than being able to fully endow this fund in the next 5-10 years. If you can, please send a check made out to J.I. Case High School with “Cross Country Scholarship” in the memo line to this address:

Mrs. Muffick
7345 Washington Avenue
Racine, WI 53406

I hope you all have a wonderful Holiday, and remember that we all have a lot to be thankful for!

-CF


A Critique of the Student Labor Movement

2011 has been a year of increased labor activism both in Wisconsin and in the nation. From the protests surrounding Governor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill to the newly minted “Occupy Wall Street” movement, blue collar workers, unions, and labor activists have seen a resurgence in their ability to organize people behind their causes. With this, especially in Wisconsin, we have seen a mass movement of students joining the labor protests (myself included) hoping to block legislation, protect workers rights, and in some cases fundamentally change the way our state and nation think about our society’s power structure.

Before this year, the student labor movement at UW-Madison was relegated to the Teachers Assistants’ Association (TAA) and radical leftist student organizations such as the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and the Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC). During the Budget Repair Bill Protests and subsequent citizen occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol, students of all stripes joined: College Dems, education majors, and even conservatives, especially those from working class backgrounds. As the debate raged on however, the usual far-left organizations took control of the tactics and messaging, turning off other students from the movement they had coalesced to, and ruining any chances students had for making a difference in the struggle. Why were more moderate students turned away from the movement? Let’s first look at a list of some of the tactics used by SLAC, et. al. and the effect their “successes” have had in the past few years. (Im going to leave the TAA out, because I believe they actually do legitimate organizing and are the reason UW can attract high quality grad students).

-In protest of workers rights violations in Honduras SLAC successfully pressures UW to break ties with Nike, losing Wisconsin students $49,000 in scholarship money in the process. This was done by storming the Chancellor’s office, and celebrated by holding a “dance-in.”

-The far-left successfully stops the New Badger Partnership, and in doing so, demonizes, alienates, and quickens the resignation of one of the most innovative leaders UW has ever had, who was extremely well-liked by students overall. The general freedoms of authority sought by the New Badger Partnership were granted to Madison (and other UW schools) anyway. Leland Pan, a SLACktivist sitting in Bascom Hall makes the asinine claim that all New Badger Partnership supporters were “middle class and white”

-Students connected to United Council of UW Students (UC) dress as zombies and cause damage to carpeting in the Capitol that taxpayers must pay to replace. The same United Council connected group later in the day stands in the way of a ceremony honoring Special Olympic athletes to protest the Governor.

-SLAC interrupts the opening of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery by banging on glass walls and shouting while Governor Doyle was speaking. Same group continues disrupting WID activities including a non-related Business Conference

These SLACers, many of whom are from upper-class families and don’t even know what it actually means to be working class, have continuously picked the wrong battles, made asses of themselves, and turned away moderate students from joining their causes because of their actions. These “flavor-of-the-week” protests over basically everything have harmed the notion of student involvement in state government, and have made even serious student lobbying efforts less effective. Sadly, even the best idea from these groups, the Briefcase Brigades proposed by Max Love in which students with suits and briefcases brought factsheets to legislative offices, was seen as simply a gimmick by those involved, and not as how students should conduct themselves ALL THE TIME when talking with legislators.

So, how can students help advance labor causes? First off, stop protesting every little thing. Labor protests, while good for bringing people together, aren’t going to be effective without causing some economic pressure, such as through a general strike. Even President Obama, who stated while he was running that he would “put on his marching shoes” if public workers were organizing, is now ignoring the working classes occupying Wall Street, just as Wisconsin Republicans ignored the thousands of people marching and occupying the Capitol.

Second, GROW UP. When you want to make a political point, do so in a respectful manner. Write a letter, make phone calls, go to the legislative office dressed nicely and bring some literature. Don’t threaten, don’t yell, and certainly don’t cause damage. Doing so only makes you look like a fool and makes it less likely the other person will listen to other students in the future.

Third, choose your battles wisely. Is standing up for Honduran workers really more important than helping your fellow Badgers afford school? Is occupying Bascom or Willy Street in solidarity with the Wall Street protesters effective at all when those people either agree with you already or can’t do a damn thing to change anything? Is ensuring that a handful of campus jobs being union jobs more important than working towards a living wage for all campus employees, or increased wages for student labor? These should be simple questions.

The last, and probably most effective thing undergraduates can do if they really care about workers rights is drop the relatively useless African American Studies, Comparative literature, Philosophy, etc. hobby majors and work towards becoming an industry leader or public leader that you’re supposed to be working towards when you decided to go to a world-class university. (side-note: I’m not decrying the humanities, I majored in History, just those that choose this route expecting to easily get jobs in power positions later). Once you’re actually in that position of authority, treat YOUR employees (those working class and otherwise) with respect. Change society from within, and change the rules yourself.


A Challenge- Social Networks Can Fuel a Financial Aid Revolution

While in high school, I was the captain of the boys cross country team, and my favorite memories from that time were at Petrifying Springs Park in Kenosha running the trails with my teammates. The team (both the guys and the girls) really felt like a second family to me, and we were known in the school as “those runners.” For the past few years, I have thought about starting up a scholarship fund for graduating seniors from Racine Case High School that had run cross country. I wanted to do this as a way to give back to new members of my “family” and help people out in a significant way, while maintaining my connection with my high school and the strong, local running community that exists in Racine.

While I was in college, however, I was more worried about my own costs, and as I have said before, often worked 4 jobs at a time just to try to pay for school and living expenses. I didn’t have time or money to work on my scholarship idea, and so I let it go. The past couple weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about the rising cost of education, and as in my last post, some crazy things people are doing to pay for school. Now that I have a solid job and some extra income, I thought again about my scholarship idea. Then, like any good person from my generation, I went on facebook.

I sent a message to 50 people who ran cross country with me, or were parents of people who had run. I brought up the idea of starting a scholarship, and hoped that I could get three to five people to help me or pledge donations. Within the first hour, my friends blew my mind. As a testament to how much the cross country team meant to us, as well as to how often people of my generation check facebook, within the first 60 minutes I had ten people message back, with a total pledge amount of $700. A day later, we’re at almost $1000 pledged, enough already to give 1- $500 scholarship each to a male and female student athlete. The donation list is only growing.

Off of this success, I am challenging my friends to do the exact same thing I did. Think back to high school and to something you were passionate about. Think of the other people you knew then who shared that passion. Ask them to donate any possible amount to help other young people pursue their dreams. Community scholarship programs do not exist in large numbers, but why not? It ONLY takes 50 people giving $20 each to give one $1000 scholarship or two $500 scholarships. That’s one night at the bars people. $20 is not a large impact on a single person, but together, the combined $1000 can make a huge impact on someone’s ability to afford a high quality education and achieve their dreams. Contact your high schools, alumni booster clubs, and PTA’s. Many of them already offer scholarships and would be more than willing to help set up the fund for the award of your choice within their own structures. Because of this, the work on your end may be as simple as writing a check and getting others to do the same.

I am blown away by the show of support I have received within only one day of making a simple ask. My friends from the Case Cross Country team are amazing people, and at the rate we’re going, we may be able to give two $1000 scholarships this year. Please match our success, and help build a movement. More scholarship money needs to be available to graduates, and small donations can fuel this. We like to claim that we are the masters of online social media and networking. It’s time that we used this to really make a difference in people’s lives.

-Carl Fergus


An Interesting Way to Pay Off Student Loans…

As I said in my re-introductory post, I graduated this year with roughly $12,000 in student loan debt. The average debt for someone graduating with a UW-Madison degree is about $21,000, and graduates like myself have a 6-month “grace” period post graduation to find some way to get enough money to begin paying off these loans. Personally, I’m putting aside a bit from each paycheck in order to pay down quickly on the premiums, but apparently, many of my female counterparts have found a, shall we say, sweeter deal.

That’s right, the lovely ladies of Wisconsin have taken to the internet in search of jobs, good stock tips, older men with deep pockets. That’s right, I’m talking about Sugar Daddies. No longer just an arrangement for those looking to become the next rich socialite or Playboy Bunny, as reported by both The Huffington Post and Fox Business, women around the nation are looking into websites such as http://www.seekingarrangement.com to find a nice, older RICH “gentleman” to help them with their college loans in exchange for “companionship.”

Not to be outdone by those from my new state of residence, who have more practice in such matters, the ladies from my dear alma mater rank #4 among the amount of “sugar babies” listed on Seeking Arrangement, with 345 profiles. Thats just around 1 out of every 100 women at UW-Madison. Lady Badgers have turned on that Midwestern charm and are searching for that good Wisconsin Cheddar, and apparently aren’t afraid to use only their exceptional brain power to get it.

Now, you may be thinking that this is the most disgusting, immoral, ludicrous thing a young, professional woman can do, but how did we get to this situation? Why are these college-educated women, who are on the whole graduating in larger numbers and with better grades than men, driven to seek out sites like seekingarrangement.com? Is it part of the “take back your body, own your sexuality” style of feminism? Or is it the exact opposite, caused by years of decreased state funding for higher education, rising costs of attending college, and a weak post-graduate jobs market that is making women push their own moral boundaries in order to get by. I’d really like to hear from you on this one, so please comment below.

Whatever the case may be, I think we can agree on one thing. Ladies, when you are able to pay off all your loans and get a high-paying job with that “world-renowned” UW-Madison degree, please pay it forward. The Sugar Babies of today can always become the Cougars of tomorrow! Stay classy, Wisconsin.

-CF


A Commentary on Life Post-Graduation

Hello readers!

After quite a long hiatus, I’ve decided to continue this blog, now writing from the perspective of one who has recently graduated, and has joined the good ‘ol American workforce (complete with $460 withheld from my first paycheck by the government in taxes). Over the next couple posts, I’m going to be commenting on a few points regarding trends in higher ed and the workforce, but first I’m going to do the narcissistic thing and talk about ME.

For those of you who don’t know me, I graduated in May from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a double BS (take that as you will) in Molecular Biology and History (with a certificate in Religious Studies thrown in there somewhere). 4020 others received undergraduate degrees with me, 27 of them in Mol. bio and 210 in History. Roughly 30% of the graduates had multiple majors.

I graduated with $12,000 in student loan debt, despite working at least 3 jobs for my last 3 years to pay for school, and coming in with $20,000 in scholarships. Going off of the latest data released from 2010, and barring no major changes, 47% of people graduating with me have student loan debt kicking in around November, with an average debt above $21,000.

Right after graduation *thankfully* I landed a job as a Quality Control Lab Analyst at Ion Torrent Systems, a DNA sequencing company in San Francisco, unlike 13% of other “recently graduated” Generation Y’ers and Millenials that can not find work or have recently been laid off within 8 years of graduating college. The job pays pretty well, and I can’t be in a more awesome location, unless of course I had an unlimited supply of spotted cow and Wisconsin cheese curds here (side-note, happy cows DO NOT come from California, they’re all skinny and dirty here and do not roam free in luscious hillside pastures as they do back home).

Anyway, Im going to wrap up this self-serving post that you’ve probably stopped reading already by saying three things. 1) The economy sucks and the unemployment rate is high and highest for young adults 2) If you are graduating college in the next few years you’ll most likely graduate in debt and the debt will likely be equal to the amount of half your starting salary, and 3) I’m doing great! There are ways as students and as young adults to get through this jobs crisis, and as our generation becomes the power brokers, WE will be the ones to look back at what we have survived, and be able to make better choices for those that follow after us.

Thank you, dear readers, for spending a little bit of time to get re-acquainted with this blog, and I hope you come back for more in depth ruminations about the jobs market, education and education debt, and life after the wonderful 4-5 year pit-stop that is the college experience. See you soon!

-CF


A True Story of Corruption in ASM

In the last few weeks, unsubstantiated claims have been made that AFTER used ASM resources to influence an election. Since no operations grant money has been spent, that claim is clearly patently false. Since those in the Max Love camp have gotten their jollies along with their 15 minutes in the spotlight, I will take the time now to show specific evidence of ACTUAL illegal use of ASM resources for campaigns.

This e-mail thread dates back from the Spring 2010 elections and is between MPOWER candidates:

<From Tina Treviño-Murphy
> Date Sun, 11 Apr 2010 23:56:24 -0500
> To Beth Huang
> Cc ahilliard@wisc.edu, LIZOTTE@wisc.edu, JLE2@wisc.edu,
> DSMITH8@wisc.edu, JEANETTE.MARTIN@gmail.com, JASAVOY@wisc.edu,
> PLLORENZ@wisc.edu, DRZINN1@yahoo.com, dakotacamacho@gmail.com,
> jaindresano@gmail.com, molly.bryers@gmail.com, burow@wisc.edu,
> ivins@wisc.edu, pclancy@wisc.edu, ccplamann@wisc.edu,
> mordecai253@gmail.com, maxwelllove@gmail.com, evan.hurley@gmail.com, lubenow@wisc.edu, cfergus@wisc.edu
> Subject MPOWER Update (Flyering tomorrow at 7am!)
> Hello MPOWER family,
>
> Just a reminder of this week’s schedule of events:
>
> *CLASS RAPS**, CORNER MOBS ALL DAY!*
> *
> *
> *Monday, April 12*
> *-postering/chalking, 7AM, CWC*
> *-tabling at Holt and Gordon, 11-1*
> *-tabling at Holt and Gordon, 4-7*
> *-phone banking, 7-9 (place TBA)*
> *-MPOWER check-in (semi-optional meeting) 9pm, CWC*
> *
> *
> *Tuesday, April 13*
> *-postering, 7AM*
> *-tabling at Holt and Gordon, 11-1*
> *-tabling at Holt and Gordon, 4-7*
> *-MLK Court Building, 6:00, for WISPIRG Fair Trade Legislation*
> *-phone banking, 7-9 (place TBA)*
> *-MPOWER check-in (semi-optional meeting) 9pm, CWC*
> *
> *
> *Wednesday, April 14*
> *-postering, 7AM*
> *-text blitz until 5PM*
> *-tabling at Holt and Gordon, 11-1*
> *-tabling at Holt and Gordon, 4-7*
> *-PARTY! MPOWER only?*
> *
> *
> *Thursday*
> *-post-election meeting (leadership roles)*
> *
> *
> *Friday*
> *-PARTY! all campus fundraiser*
>
>
> Make sure you’re planning on attending everything you possibly can,
> and that
> you are talking to everyone you run into! I’ll be at the CWC at 7am tomorrow
> morning. Hope to see all of you there!
>
> Tina

Campus Characters Tina Trevino-Murphy, Max Love, and other MPOWER members used the CWC office as a meeting place to discuss elections. Nothing wrong with that you say? Only if $5400 in seg fees werent used to pay for their office rental, and another $5776 in seg fees to pay for supplies, some of which were used to print MPOWER fliers, chalk up campus, etc. Oh, and don’t forget about the $4000 worth of seg-fee funded computer equipment used to create e-mail lists, contact students for voting for MPOWER candidates, and coordinate other campaign activities.

There are two main differences between the MPOWER and AFTER “election violations.” The first is that AFTER members remained part of ASM and have been involved this entire year in actually HELPING students, whereas out of the 9 MPOWER candidates elected, 3 resigned in the first semester, and 4 were kicked off of Council for missing too many meetings. The second and most important difference between the violations was that the MPOWER violations ACTUALLY OCCURRED.


A “Non-Partisan” Organization? UC Has Failed its Constituents Yet Again

I have been involved with United Council for over four years and in that time, I have seen the organization hit rock bottom, appear to rise from the ashes, and sadly now see it plummeting back down.

United Council of UW-Students (aka UC) is a non partisan organization that stands for all students’ rights to access and affordability in college.  There is of course no doubt that United Council started out as a liberal organization, representing only about half the students in the UW-System and only making decisions that those liberal constituents agreed with.  Of course no non partisan organization can survive if it continues down this path, and many in UC realized this. In 2008, UC began a restructuring process of its organization to fix its many problems, which were so deep that even some students on the left were beginning to worry about the future and stability of the organization.  Many campuses were leaving UC and I, myself as the President of the University of Waukesha Student Government, was threatening to pull out if the new structure didn’t look promising. After one long year and many compromises, the new structure was completed and the new constitution was approved. United Council had a new beginning and a new chance to do what they always claimed to do. Or so we thought.

Under the current structure of United Council, the power sits with the Leadership of the Organization, the Board of Directors and the Executive Director.  These individuals control the direction and purpose of UC and are not often questioned by their constituents.  Under this structure UC did a good job in fall 2009 and spring 2010 by reaching out to non-member campuses and to conservative students to show that they had changed and were now truly representing all students.  I myself as a board member advocated on behalf of United Council, fully believing that the organization had changed for the better, that it was now representing all students: liberal, conservative and moderate. Sadly, in February of 2010, United Council’s old colors began to show.  At the February convention the then and current President, Kirk Cychosz accused the entire UW-Madison student delegation of being “elitists” and that they were “segregating themselves” from the rest of the campuses there simply because they were wearing suits. These were the actual words Mr. Cychosz used. You can read more about the incident at Beyond the Talking Points.   He also made similar statements to the students form Parkside and Waukesha that weekend about the suits that members of their delegations were wearing. This blatant classism was a hint of things to come.

Mr. Cychosz, continued to impress his views of attire upon the rest of the board members and in some cases, his behavior became unruly.  During the March Building Unity Conference last year, Mr. Cychosz made it very clear to me that he was unhappy that I had continued my suit-wearing habits, even though I had explained to him that my constituents expected me to conduct myself and dress in a professional manner and that there was nothing wrong with wearing a suit. This lead to Mr. Cychosz sending derogatory comments via text messages to other students about my personal religious beliefs. Eventually this lead to an altercation at three in the morning when Mr. Cychosz was intoxicated and decided to confront me about his problems with me (I was not intoxicated during this event).  Mr. Cychosz began to rant and rave at me for wearing suits and when he realized I wasn’t taking him seriously he became irate with me and at one point shoved me.  He then proceeded to viscously attack my political beliefs and was continually telling me how wrong they were and threatened me with impeachment from the board. The words chosen to bash my political beliefs were chosen by him specifically in an attempt to hurt and demoralize me. He also brought up my date for the United Council Gala and tried to upset me about that. I eventually turned my back and walked away and Mr. Cychosz continued to follow yelling for a few feet.

Now, this is an extremely watered down version of what took place but the meat and facts are present in what I have just written.  Now Mr. Cychosz directly violated Article XIV, section 5 of the Corporate Bylaws of United Council by discriminating and harassing me for my creed, religious belief, physical appearance, and political affiliation. Mr. Cychosz also violated Article IX Section 4, (a) which outlines the importance of the president to be a public figure.

Now when something like this all happens, the appropriate process would be to submit an official grievance to the Personnel Committee of United Council, which is what I did. Several months later nothing happened and Mr. Cychosz was reelected as President of United Council. A member of the committee informed last summer when I inquired about what had been done told me that the issue had been tabled and never brought back up.

Over the summer the UC Board of Directors instructed the president to inform the United States Student Association (USSA) that Wisconsin was not happy that they had taken a stance to appose the Arizona SB1070 Immigration law, because it wasn’t a student issue.  While at the USSA Congress Conference, Mr. Cychosz did nothing, while I proposed legislation to reverse USSA’s stance and to not take a stance at all. While at this conference I also submitted legislation after requests and talks with several other states, Minnesota, Colorado, and Oregon students to create a Straight Male Caucus. Now at USSA they have a Caucus for nearly every identify imaginable, except if you’re a male. The legislation was simply asking for the ability to let everyone who wanted to meet with other people of their own chosen identify to work on issues that pertained to them. Both pieces of legislation failed and UC went after me once the Fall semester started up.

Two board members, Max Love and Jolie Lizotte, filed personal grievances against me for my actions at USSA, claiming I had violated peoples’ safe spaces and that my “ignorance” had portrayed UC in a bad light. The Personnel Committee met and decided almost instantly after one meeting to recommend my removal from the board and to fine me for my actions. Meanwhile the grievance against Mr. Cychosz, the paid president of UC was still ignored. After 11 total hours of board hearings, of which my resignation was demanded after a vote to remove me failed, it was promised that the aforementioned grievances against Mr. Cychosz would be taken up.  A month later nothing had happened and in that time, Mr. Cychosz struck again.

Mr. Cychosz had been sexting a female student at the conference and had sent her messages that said things like “If you come to Eau Claire this weekend I’m going to f*** you all weekend long;” and a picture of his penis with a caption that said, “This is what I want to give you this weekend for your birthday.”

This clearly violates the No Tolerance Policy in the United Council Policy Platform. The student victim, made a complaint to the Executive Director, and I myself filed another grievance against Mr. Cychosz.

Now you would think that after all this the personnel committee would have meet and made a decision about this and had asked for Mr. Cychosz’s letter of resignation as well. But can you guess what happened? I’m very sorry to say nothing.

United Council is currently seen as an organization that is willing to protect and cover up the “unprofessional” behavior of its paid liberal president, but it has no problem going after its unpaid conservative, Christian board member.  Whether that is really the case or not doesn’t matter, because that is the image UC has among campuses that are aware of what is going on.

It has now officially been nearly a year, since the original grievance was filed against Mr. Cychosz, and still nothing is being done about it. I’ll repeat that, ONE YEAR.  If this were the professional world, I can guarantee you this wouldn’t happen.  Whether UC means it or not, the appearances is that they are ignoring the pleas of justice from their constituents and protecting Mr. Cychosz at the expense to of the image of their organization.

United Council, sadly, haven’t’ stopped there in letting their constituents down. Last fall one of their board members Jolie Litotes was caught trying to have students who were not deputized by the government accountability board to register students to vote. Once again, UC covered this up and blamed the incidents on WISPIRG, another student organization (one that Jolie is also a part of, though she was acting as a UC Board Member). Again, UC is ok with protecting liberal Board Members at the expense of ruining relationships with organizations they partner with.

And just this past week, blatantly partisan anti-Governor Walker signs opposing the entirety of the Budget Repair Bill went up all of UW-Madison campus.  These signs were designed to incite anger and misinform students and were full of inaccuracies and some down right lies.  Now if someone wants to do that they can and have every right to do so, but the problem is that United Council’s name was on the flyer.  UC has of course denied that they approved such a thing, and it’s true, they didn’t. Instead, they again blamed other partner organizations such as the TAA. However, as their website was listed and none of their partner organizations were, it is safe to assume that one of their Board Members or student leaders created this flyer and portrayed UC as a partisan organization.

Now I need to be clear about something here. I write this blog NOT to discredit United Council, nor to try to see it be brought to ruin, but to bring to light the questionable and even immoral happenings in this organization. United Council can still be a great instrument and tool for all students. However, under its current leadership, certain members of the board and some staff members are preventing UC from being what it can be, what it should be, what it needs to be, and that is a nonbiased organization that truly represent the best interests of ALL students. CF has outlines how this is possible here: It is my hope that now that all this has now come to light that students leaders can be informed of what is going on in UC and that they can begin say with the rest of us that enough is enough.  We expect UC to live up to the standard it has set forth for itself.  We expect them to follow their own constitution, remain truly non-partisan, and to treat EVERYONE fairly, regardless of their religion, political belief, creed, etc.  And above all else, we expect UC to represent ALL students like they claim to!

With Respect,

DP


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