Author Archives: dpos

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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A Strategic Plan for Diversity Committee

If you asked every person in a room of 20 or so people what their definition of diversity is, you would get 20 different responses.  Issues of diversity are of the utmost importance, yet handling them is no simple task. We need to view diversity in regards of mutual respect for everyone else. Only then can we begin to make our campus welcoming and safe for all students.  The Diversity Committee is the place where this needs to begin, and tonight, I will be seeking Student Council’s approval to lead the committee. My plan involves three steps towards making this a reality: 1) redefining the purpose of the committee, 2) outreach to student organizations, the campus, and the Madison community, and 3) advocacy on behalf of students.

Purpose

Many groups at UW-Madison are already doing great work for diversity for their campus and community. These include MCSC, Wunk Sheek, MEChA, and the Black Student Union among many others.  These organizations have been doing great work for students and deserve their recognition, however, there are many other organizations that do the same work but often aren’t recognized for it.  We need to expand our base and engage these other organizations that are often not thought of as being a part of campus diversity but in fact are, such as Working Class Student Union,  Muslim Student Association, India Students Association, Vets for Vets, Badger Catholic, Campus Crusade for Christ, Hillel, One Voice, and many others.  I want to bring these organizations into the discussions of diversity on campus and I want the Diversity Committee to recognize the multitudes of different beliefs, backgrounds, heritages etc that make up diversity in our society and more importantly on our campus!

Outreach

The Diversity Committee needs to start acting as a liaison to the student organizations on campus and help them to hold successful events by co-sponsoring, advertising, and volunteering at the events to help build better communication and collaboration.  By building a dialog with these organizations we can better inform them of what ASM can do for them, and in turn it my help them to get involved in ASM.  The Chair of the Diversity Committee should be tasked with beginning the outreach process to meet with organizational leadership.  The overall goal is to get more people involved with ASM through the Diversity Committee

Other groups we must outreach to are everyday students at UW, and the greater Madison community. We can do this most effectively by setting up events. One event that Diversity Committee can begin with is the Shadow Day that University Affairs committee intern Joanna Romero is working on. Shadow Day gives high school students from underrepresented communities the chance to come to campus and shadow a college student for the day. The Diversity Committee needs to make sure that the ASM Shadow Day is successfully implemented and is institutionalized from year to year in ASM.  Also, the Real Talk program needs to continue on campus because it provides a great forum to keep communication and conversation about diversity active and engages students not generally involved in diversity discussions.  This is a program I would like to see better advertised through the Diversity Committee.

The second goal that I would finish by the end of this semester is a week of religious identity recognition.  A major aspect of diverse culture that is often overlooked and left out on this campus is faith and spirituality.  We will work and coordinate with religious organizations on campus such as Badger Catholic, Campus Crusade for Christ, Hillel, One Voice, Chabad, Muslim Student Association as well as the atheist, agnostic organizations and all other groups that deal with issues regarding religion and spirituality.  A proper name can be formulated in the planning process of this event, and the goal of the event will be to bring together a coalition of these students to have guest speakers, workshops and other beneficial things concerning the issue of faith identity.  Aspects of faith and non faith are different throughout many cultures, classes, and ethnicities and I want to bring that to the forefront of the campus.

Advocacy

Advocacy is the most important part about what the Diversity Committee needs to do.  The most obvious issue of diversity is the current campus climate. Issues regarding respect, safety, racism, homophobia and classism do come up on this campus.  The Diversity Committee needs to be a place where students can come together and work on these issues asap.  When these issues arise, as the chair I will make sure the committee will react quickly and effectively to empower students to handle these issues that affect them and their communities. Working with the Campus Diversity and Climate Committee is a key goal to advocate for students, and we need to make sure that students are working with the CDCC to represent the Diversity Committee.  Our goal should be to shape policy with the administration, consult with the Center for First Year Experience, the Division of Student Life, the Office of Admissions SOAR, and other committees to make sure that diversity discussion is present in all administration decisions.  The end goal is to eventually build respect over the years by working through controversial campus climate issues.

With Respect,

DP


A Desire for Diversity

We are privileged to live in the most diverse culture and country of our time; The United States of America. Our country’s origins were based on the concept of diversity.  When the colonists came it was to find the freedom to practice their own religions without persecution. This paved the way for others to come here to practice their own religions.  They were Lutherans, Catholics, Quakers, Jews, etc.  Our country began as diverse collection of religious faiths.

Today, when people hear the word “diverse” they immediately think you are referring to someone who has a higher level of pigment in their epidermis.  Others will say being “diverse” relates to your heritage and background, or that it is both referring to ones pigment and heritage.  The truth is that diversity is SOOO much more than that.  Every single person has their own unique experiences and adds to a diverse society in their own way.  The problem is that society places too much of an emphasis on our skin color and our heritage.  This has begun to dominate how we treat each other, and things have gotten out of hand.  Many people today have begun to use their heritage or skin color as a reason for entitlement and to take advantage of others. This can be found in people of all races, and has lead to the use of “diversity” as an intimidation tactic when arguing about many different topics such as immigration, war, social services, and especially education.  America has come far in its 230 + years of existence, but we still have a long way to go.

We need to take a stand, here and now and tell America what diversity really means.  Diversity is so much more than just your heritage, skin color, and religious beliefs.  Diversity also incorporates our political beliefs, sexual identity, sexual preferences, hair style, hair color, height, weight, class, etc. We should all be proud of our background and heritage but shouldn’t let that dictate how we treat one another.  If we all agree that we were “Created Equal,” then one person can’t be “MORE” diverse than someone else. Does Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution not emphasize the equality of all American citizens? Does is not establish that no one citizen of this country is higher than another?

When one person looks at another person, they should not be worried that they might offend them because of the person’s skin color, height, or sex.  This shouldn’t be the first thing that enters the persons mind.  They should simply view the person standing before them as another human being who is just as unique and diverse as you are. We need to all stop and check ourselves right now for any hate, resentment or reservations we have for someone else because they seem different, because guess what, we’re ALL very different from one another.  There is no class, workshop or focus group that can truly help us to reach the mindset of accepting true diversity unless we ourselves choose to.

Promoting and celebrating our cultures and choices is a good thing and should be encouraged, but not to the point where we are doing this at the expense of another persons’ beliefs. We need to be of the mindset that no one heritage is greater or more important than another, and everyone should feel welcome in these conversations.

In closing, I leave you with this. Diversity is composed of everything that makes us who we are. Instead of looking to be acknowledged for it, we should simply wish for respect.  “Treat others, as you yourself wish to be treated.”  If our society can begin to gravitate towards this mindset, we would begin to tear down so many barriers that have been set up to prevent us from achieving this goal. We must not forget the goals and dreams that such great leaders and pioneers of diversity such as Martin Luther King Jr. did for his country. As he said in his most famous speech,

“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

With Respect,

-DP


A Second Beginning

Greetings, I apologize for taking so long to post to the blog that my friend CF and I have created.  Now that I finally have access and am finally getting around to it you should see a few post from me in the near future.  I will be keeping pace with the same style that CF has already established and I want to emphasize some of the points that were made about “The Silent Majority” in his first blog post https://asilentmajority.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/a-beginning/. By no means does this blog represent a majority of people but of my own personal opinions and views as a twenty-four year old Italian Polish American.  I’ve spent the majority of my last four years in service to the UW-System students.  I’ve worked with countless students, student organizations and UW campuses on a variety of issues, ranging from lobbying on the state budget on the behalf of students, to working with the African American Union of UW-Waukesha to host events.

I’ve always been a huge believer in the first amendment of the constitution which guarantees us freedom of religion, speech, and press; rights of assembly and petition.  All of these will be incorporated into my blog in some way or another in my posts, but right now I want to emphasize the importance and the miss conceptions on freedom of speech.  This is the one freedom that is abused the most.  Just because you can say whatever is in your head, doesn’t necessarily mean it should actually come out of your mouth.  Speech can be a powerful tool for the good of man kind, but also a weapon used to hurt others.  Just because we have a right to use something doesn’t mean we should abuse it. The freedoms and rights that our founding fathers fought for and that countless young Americans fought so hard to give us should not be taken lightly.  Those of us who use freedom of speech on a regular basis and to a larger audience have an obligation and responsibility to be to hold ourselves to a higher standard.  Now, what do you do when someone doesn’t show respect for our freedoms, and abuses it? The answer is very simple actually, “In free countries, every man is entitled to express his opinions and every other man is entitled not to listen.” –G. Norman Collie

Having said that I now make this promise to my readers. I will speak from the heart but will be mindful of my words. I will be honest but will never speak to hurt.  My goal is to share with you all, like CF, our perspective on governance, State Government, Student Issues, and related topics in general, but with an end to the goal.  This blog will not be a place to vent or to complain, but to try and address an issue, and hopefully to come up with a solution or to at least spark a discussion for a solution.

I’m not a history major, but I do reflect very often about our country’s past, and will often times give a quick background in my posts about what has happened in the past and how knowing the past can help us to avoid the same fallacies we have gotten ourselves into in the future.  In my next post I will be touching on a key issue that has been in the main stream for the past 200 years or so, but has never been satisfactorily discussed, due to fear and misinterpretations of the topic.  I hope you will find the time to read my upcoming post, as it will be essential to the work I will be doing these coming months and there is a strong need for healthy discussion.

In closing I will follow suit with Mr. CF and reiterate his house keeping remarks.  We encourage discussion and thoughtful comments and we look forward to opposing views to help all of us get a better understanding of where we all come from.  Please avoid personal attacks, I think I made it very clear earlier the importance of speech and its use, and I hope all of you will take those words to heart in your responses.

With Regards,

DP