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!