ASM Power Hour: The “128 Sweep”

[Edited at 10:00am EDT 15 March 2010 to add one more question]
I was going to just ignore this one, but I had a few thoughts, and the supporting documentation is such a mess that you have to really be bound and determined to find out more about what happened, so I’m going to spend one hour on it and see how far I get. (OK, fine, this turned into a longer than one hour project)

ASM Chair Tyler Junger gave his report to the rest of us on what happened with the state raid on auxiliary reserves this summer, along with essentially an open records request on all supporting communications. Max has put Tyler’s report online, and Tyler put all of the supporting emails online, but they’re in useless Outlook .msg format, so they’re virtually impossible to read. [To be fair, when talking with Tyler he didn’t realize that they’d be so painful for Mac users and he thought they’d be readable by everyone. I’m just happy they’re online]

So, to make things easier, here are all (I think) of the emails in PDF format (I may be missing one – MyWebspace says there are 70 items, but when I told it to give me everything in one zip file it only gave me 69 files, and I don’t feel like looking for the wayward one. That’s an exercise for the reader.)

I’ve combined a number of emails into single PDFs, logically grouped.
The First PDF covers the initial notice of anything happening with fund 128 and a meeting. It also contains the 1 page spreadsheet that was the ONLY documentation that ASM ever saw in the whole situation. It also contains the request from Katrina to update the Council on what’s happening.  From the email dump, this PDF includes the following messages (though I deleted a few that were just Tyler forwarding the same message to himself between different email addresses)

062509 PDF of the 128 Funds doc (51).msg
062509 Re  PDF of the 128 Funds doc (71).msg
062609 128 meeting (67).msg
062609 128 meeting.msg
062609 Fw  128 meeting.msg
062609 Re  128 meeting (55).msg
062609 Re  128 meeting (57).msg
062609 Re  128 meeting (63).msg

The next PDF is mostly a discussion between Lisa Aalri, director of ASM and Tyler. The email with the staff’s comments and an explanation of what the spreadsheet means (from the previous PDF) was never forwarded to council despite there being a decision to do so. I don’t believe the staff brainstorming list was ever sent to council, though I know that I got a paper copy of it on the 26th. It also shows the first incomplete in Tyler’s report – it references an email from April 1st 2009 from Bill Richner that is critical to knowing the full history. This PDF includes the brainstorming list, and covers messages
062609 Re  PDF of the 128 Funds doc (48).msg
062609 Re  PDF of the 128 Funds doc (49).msg
062609 Re  PDF of the 128 Funds doc (69).msg
062609 Re  128 meeting (46).msg
062609 info on 128 cuts (45).msg
062609 Re  128 meeting (66).msg

The next set of emails is the back and forth between a couple of us (Myself, Tyler, Kurt, Tom) – most of it flowed through Tyler; I don’t think I CCed anyone. It starts as the benediction from Tyler after the meeting of the 26th, and then includes:
062709 Fund 128 (33).msg — Benediction from Tyler
062909 128 fund info (38).msg — From Tom, on some language that gives the UW Flexibility. Tom’s budget attachment is here.
070109 128 stuff (79).msg – From me, discussing how the UW has flexibility, and how ASM is not an auxiliary and should be exempt
070109 Re  128 stuff (77).msg – Tyler’s followup to my message, wondering if we’ve found our out
070109 Re  128 stuff.msg – My response, with the idea that seg fees should be exempted and how we need something in writing going forward
070210 tonights meeting (453 KB).msg – From Tom, includes a letter from Tyler and an agenda for that night.
070309 128 Situation.msg – Kurt’s take on what the budget requests meant, as of July 3rd. I think he got it backwards.
070309 Seg Fee Reductions (1.76 KB).msg – From Lori Berquam, to Biddy, just as a heads-up that ASM was going to the Regents
070709 128.msg – Kurt’s summary of what needed to happen before the Regent’s meeting.
070709 Re Fwd 128 fund info (2.98 KB).msg – Just an FYI from me to Tyler, explaining the provenance of Tom’s information for future reference
071009 Fund 128.msg – The Cardinal open-records requested the useless spreadsheet we had (the Fund 120D document)

I’m ignoring the following messages, since they were just Tyler and Deborah Ziff playing phone tag
070109 Fund 128 sweep.msg
070109 RE  Fund 128 sweep (31).msg
070109 Re  Fund 128 sweep (60).msg
070109 RE  Fund 128 sweep (83).msg
070109 RE  Fund 128 sweep (84).msg
070109 RE  Fund 128 sweep (87).msg

The next message I’m leaving standalone. It’s me, complaining to Tyler about the whole process and the lack of documentation and communication. That I still hadn’t gotten the written documentation I wanted in July by the end of October was why I wrote the report legislation.
071409 grumpiness about the 128 process.msg

I’m ignoring this, because it’s just some random thing to Adam from Tyler saying there will be a discussion about the 128 stuff at the July council meeting.
071809 128 Stuff.msg

The next one I’m also leaving standalone, because it details how much the UW is taking to pay off the State. I’m upset that I haven’t seen this one until now. (Earlier, I was fucking pissed, but I’ve calmed down.) Finally, exactly how much the state is taking. But what the hell is this about the FY11 contribution? Where is that in our budget?  This is important.
093009 FW  Seg fees 128 account.msg

The next one is the ASM meeting at the end of October where I got frustrated waiting and wrote legislation demanding a written report. I wanted the ASM staff to write it, but it got amended to be Tyler. I knew that Tyler would be: A – Busy, and B – I wanted staff to do it because I wanted them to be communicating with Bascom, and I wanted to know what they knew and when they knew it. I stripped out everything but my legislation from the agenda.
102709 ASM Student Council Agenda 10 28 09.msg

Next we move on to the ASM Reserve Board Meeting. The Reserve Board is responsible for managing the ASM Reserve Funds, which at the (End?) of FY09 (June 30, 2009) had $446,540.  The messages included in this PDF are from Brandon, the SSFC Chair who is also the Reserve Board Chair, scheduling the meeting and posting the agenda, and then the followup from Lisa Aalri, director of ASM. Lisa included two spreadsheets, as well as email from Donna Halleran of the Vice Chancellor for Administration’s office to Tom. Note that Donna completely ignored Tom’s question of “Is the UW expecting ASM to contribute another $75,000 to the state?”. This gets back to the September 30th email – the UW is, or at least was in September, expecting another $104,000 from ASM on July 1 2010. The 102909 message also included a spreadsheet of the breakdown of all of segregated fees, but I haven’t found it that useful so I’m ignoring it. This set of emails is important because it details exactly how the UW calculated what they’re expecting ASM to contribute.
102809 RE  Reserve Board.msg
102909 128 sweep (44).msg

I skipped these two messages, because they were just “I’ve got the swine flu and can’t make it”
102709 Reserve Board.msg
102809 Re  Reserve Board (1).msg
Finally we have an exchange between Lori Berquam, Donna Halleran, Freda Harris of UW System, Aaron Wingrad (one of the Regents), and Tom/Tyler/Brandon/and Michael Romanesko. In it, UW System lays out its rational for taking money that originally came from seg fees and why they’re pretty much OK with that. This is where there is the most room to negotiate.
110609 RE  128 funds.msg

These two messages are included in the above so I’m ignoring them.
110409 128 funds (43).msg
110609 RE  128 funds (74).msg

I ignored this because I can’t remember find anything about the 128 sweep in this agenda nor do I remember talking about it at this student council meeting.
111109 ASM Student Council  11 11 09.msg

I ignored all of these because they’re just about scheduling a meeting with Darrell about the 128 sweep. There is no record of what we discussed nor decided at that meeting.
111609 FW  Meeting with Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell (20).msg
111609 FW  Meeting with Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell.msg
111609 RE  Meeting with Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell (2).msg
111609 RE  Meeting with Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell (22).msg
111609 RE  Meeting with Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell.msg

I ignored all of these, because they’re just forwards of earlier emails between accounts for Tyler. He’s nothing but complete.
111809 Fwd  128 Situation.msg
111809 Fwd  128 fund info.msg
111809 Fwd  128 funds.msg
111809 Fwd  128 stuff.msg
111809 Fwd  FW  Seg fees 128 account.msg
111809 Fwd  info on 128 cuts.msg

I’m ignoring these because they’re just Student Print wanting to know what’s going on, and Tyler forwarding on those messages from one account to the other
021209 Fw  Request for Information  128 account raids and the MOU.msg
021210 Request for Information  128 account raids and the MOU (40).msg
021910 RE  Request for Information  128 account raids and the MOU.msg
022410 Fwd  Request for Information  128 account raids and the MOU (3).msg

I’m ignoring these, because they’re Max asking for all of the information in this post.
022510 Re  Open Records Request 2.msg
022610 Re  Open Records Request 1.msg
02510 Open Records Request.msg
02510 Re  Open Records Request.msg

I’m ignoring these, because its Max explaining his legislation.
030710 Segregated Fee Sweep.msg
030910 RE.msg
030910 Untitled.msg

I’m going to look at this exchange between Max and Tyler . Tyler is wrong: ASM is not an auxiliary unit. We are nothing like an auxiliary, except that we also collect segregated fees. ASM has nothing that is fee-for-service – that’s what makes an auxiliary and auxiliary.  That we’re classified as one is a problem. (Though, Student Print is clearly an auxiliary, but I’m in favor of totally spinning off Student Print anyway)
030910 Re  RE.msg

So, that’s what the records dump contained.

Where does that leave us?

We’re not done with the report. We need to know the following things:

– We need the email from Bill Richner on April 1 2009, detailing what the UW administration was concerned about with surplus money in reserve accounts. We also need the agreement that lead 15th session of ASM to spend down its reserve funds.

– We need a detailed “tick-tock” from Lisa Aarli for June 24th, 2009 – who approached Lisa with the 1-page spreadsheet listing the proposed cuts?

– We need a through explanation from Darrell’s office detailing how the UW selected the date to snapshot its financial picture, which determined the amount of money any unit with reserves is expected to contribute, and how the numbers from that day project forward into the expected contribution for FY11. Also, how did that relate to the advice to spend down the reserve funds we got from Bill in April of 09?

– [Edit 10am 15 March] We need clear guidance on the difference between the 1% efficiency charge ($104,000) for FY10 and FY11 and the one-time charge of $181,000 in FY10 for WHEG. Let’s make sure that we’re all on the same page as to what those numbers mean, where the numbers came from, where the money is going to come from/has come from, and what the money is being used for.

– We need a better explanation from the administration on how they envision FY11 contributions to work. By my figurin’, there’s $75,000 that they’re expecting ASM to cough up, of which $14,000 would come from the ASM Internal. (See the spreadsheet in the Reserves Board emails) I don’t think we have that money. Hopefully we do, through some leftover reserves, and the GSSF budget should come in under and we’ll be OK.

– Why are the FY11 numbers calculated the same way as the FY10 numbers, especially given that auxiliaries operate on a year-to-year basis?

– We have authority to deficit spend in FY10. Does that carry over to FY11?

I’ve held off having any comment on the 128 sweep at all since October, because I knew I didn’t have enough information. This report and email gets me closer to knowing what the next step should look like. I was sick of working from incomplete information, and it was not productive. I’m annoyed that it took 5 months to finish this report, and lots of negotiation has been happening, some of based on incorrect information. Overall though, I’m mostly happy that we finally have all of this information.

Obviously, that next step will be finishing a draft of the Memo of Understanding between the administration and ASM. I am not 100% opposed to releasing some of the ASM reserves towards the UW-Madison’s part of the WHEG program. It’s a tough budget and there’s no new money coming from the State, and if not ASM reserves it will be something else that affects students that gets cut.  I do believe that the UW-Madison has discretion on how their contribution should be funded, and an across-the-board contribution is the wrong way to approach it.  I’m particularly concerned with how the FY11 contribution is expected to work.

Max has gotten very interested in this process lately. I’m not sure what new information he thinks he’s found; I think we’ve looked at everything he brought up. Unfortunately, his agitating is not helpful. This is a long-term negotiation, and it’s ongoing. The first tool in the toolbox should not be a mass protest, and throwing verbal bombs at the administration and ASM just leaves you outside, and at a disadvantage when it comes to ever having to deal in good faith with the administration. There are times when the right thing to do is to mobilize, but this isn’t there yet.

Long term, we need to get ASM money out of “128” funds, because we’re not an auxiliary enterprise of the University. I suspect the best home for us is 136, or maybe 131, but we’d need someone from the VC of Administration and the Office of the Dean of Students to go over that us and see where we might best fit, and what problems having ASM funds as a different type might cause. This is what Letters and Science did after the last auxiliary sweep. Actually, I suspect the best thing to do is to create an entirely new fund type – I see 139 is open! Allocable seg fees are clearly special in the University, and its worth tracking that. (Unfortunately, I think new fund types may require legislative action, which is not exactly speedy.) That won’t protect us from future raids, but it will make it more explicit and less likely to fall under blanket sweeps.

Going forward, I think the best thing for ASM to do is to go into closed session on Wednesday night and give an update on the MOU negotiations, and see where the council comes down.


3 comments so far

  1. campusfirst on

    You hit the nail on the head here. I was working on my own recounting of the situation, but you said everything that I was going to say in my analysis. I’ve broken down what I think is worth noting again:

    1) ASM is not an auxiliary enterprise (despite SP best wishes, they clearly are.) ASM classifies as a student service, with no self-supporting revenue to speak of. I had this debate via email with Tyler last week.

    2) Max is not helping the situation. Fighting “the man” in this case could simply shut the door in our faces. Max isn’t even right in his assessment. His argument is that there wasn’t “legislative intent.” Unfortunately, I can’t see how an argument can be made that way when there is nothing explicitly protecting seg fees.

    3) We do need to get out of 128s. My only concern is that it will limit our already limited discretion on non-allocable expenditures, which at the rate they are increasing need to be kept in check.

    4) Lastly, to answer one of your questions, we don’t really have the authority to deficit spend. Instead, we calculated that enough reserves would be left over to offset our overspending elsewhere. Most of this comes from the GSSF, where wages almost never reach their budgetted amount.

    Good summary and I’ll keep checking back to see if there’s anything else that arises here.

  2. TJ Madsen on

    Max’s questions of the legality of the sweep are quite technical and complicated (based on the language of the budget legislation). When I first tried reading about it I didn’t quite understand where he was going. However, after hearing the arguments play out at the meeting last Wednesday, I think there are some serious unanswered questions about the legality of taking money from the ASM reserves.

    The “legislative intent” argument is only part of what he is getting at. The crux is that if it is truly illegal for them to take money from ASM, then it shouldn’t be done (regardless of the impacts on other UW programs).

    The big question that went unanswered throughout this whole process is whether or not the ASM reserve sweep was ACTUALLY legal. I just cannot understand why a lawyer was never consulted on this issue. Consulting a lawyer and actually getting an opinion on this issue is the basis of what Max is asking for. I do not believe that asking questions about the legality of the sweep harms potential negotiations or hurts our image with the administration in any way. In fact, a desire to avoid a PR mess and legality problems will make it more likely that the administration will be sympathetic to our cause.

  3. Maxwell Love on

    Brandon: I tried to make it clear on Wednesday. After referring to a legislative fiscal bureau paper which says that UW System distributed the bill for the sweep based on accounts less segregated fees and there are many ways to interpret this.

    I also think, it is very possible the way the budget is written that it is only requesting funds from auxiliary accounts and Erik agrees that ASM isn’t an auxiliary account; it’s a student service account. Those are my interpretations and I would much rather have a lawyer make them than any of us.

    AND: I am certainly not trying to fight the administration (I’d much rather prefer this gender neutral word rather than “the man”). If you would read any of the scripts I’ve typed up to have people call/email with you would see that it says “I would like to ask a few questions”. Questions can never hurt and in fact it would seem that negotiations would be stimulated in this respect. I cannot see why students questioning about an issue that directly affects their money would hurt a negotiation process and Tyler has yet to answer my email to answer that question so perhaps someone could contact me and let me know and I might change my mind instead of making statements that it’s not helping when I haven’t been presented with a definite way that it is hurting.

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