Editorial: Student-less Affairs

Since July 2016, UW Student Media has been one of several student groups on campus mistreated by administration.

This problem arose over space allocation for our department. However, this editorial has not been written to discuss space allocation in the Union.

This editorial was written to call attention the manner in which Vice President “for Student Affairs” Sara Axelson, and those under her supervision, has treated students over the past year or more.

The primary theme of that treatment is deception. Through this process student affairs, and specifically Axelson, has been dishonest with students.

The first, and perhaps most significant example of this is the fact that Student Media was not even informed that we may lose our space until after an entire floor plan had been drafted by an independent architect.

Worse still may be the reason our department would be moved. In the minute’s attached to the third party consultants (ALM2S) report, it shows a recommendation from UW to reduce Student Medias footprint.

In an interview, and on several other occasions, Axelson was asked if this recommendation came from her. She consistently said she did not remember.

However, in an email written by Axelson on Mar. 20, 2016 she said, “We met with the consultant who shared some scenarios in the attachment in which we offered significant feedback. Bottom line is that they will return to us recommendations that include these key components with some variations.”

Axelson went on in the email to list those components, including, “Relocate the Veteran’s Center to the Union (Most likely 3rd floor, west wing,” and “Reduce the foot print of Student Media on the 3rd floor.”

Axelson admits in the email that the Veterans would rather not be in the Union.

This email is concerning for two reasons. The first is that in the BI’s initial interview with Axelson she first claimed that these were the recommendations of the consultant. After being pressed on the issue she then said she could not remember who made the recommendation.

It is clear from this email that she made the recommendations. Beyond that they were issued as “key components” for the consultants, a rather difficult thing to forget.

Another example of Axelson’s department lying, affected not only Student Media, but the Veteran Center as well. Throughout the process of trying to persuade administration to vet the floor plan returned by the third party consultants, Student Media was told, “Nothing is set in stone.”

In a meeting with Axelson, Eric Webb, Dean of Students Sean Blackburn, Vice President of ASUW Tyler Wolfgang and President Michael Rottelini, it became clear that was not true.

At that meeting we asked Axelson if the Veterans, who would now occupy our space, knew that the plan was on hold. Axelson said she didn’t know, and after Student Media demanded an answer, she asked Blackburn to answer for her.

“They’re full steam ahead,” Blackburn said.

Axelson and her department were telling Student Media not to worry as nothing was set in stone, while simultaneously telling the veterans they could go ahead with their plans to renovate the space we still occupied.

At least there was a union vision board assembled to act as a first line of defense though right?

While there was a board created at the outset, it had only two students and was quickly abandoned.

Daniel Kerbs, an ASUW senator and a member of the Union Vision board reached out in an April email asking if the board would consider the options.

Rather than answer Kerbs, Darcy DeTienne, Director of the Wyoming Union, forwarded the email to Axelson and asked, “Since it was decided to get approval on a plan without going back to the team and involving them, how should I respond to this?”

Axelson and her subordinates had decided to move on from the union visioning board without so much as telling them.

The most recent deception came a week ago, when Student Media sat down with Blackburn to discuss the possibility of moving our department to the administrative offices in the basement of the union.

Blackburn told Student Media that nothing had been decided and that we would have a chance to further consider that space.

Unfortunately that chance never came. We received an email less than a week later informing us that they are moving forward with the plan and that the vetting process had concluded.

The bottom line is that the people whose job it is to look out for students is lying directly to students. They are pushing policies and changes that the affected parties have advocated against.

The question becomes why? Why push an agenda with which most students associated disagree? Why lie if they’re not doing anything wrong?

Student Affairs’ number one goal should be to listen to and help students. They have elected to do so by ignoring and lying to us.

ASUW must draft a resolution to halt this process. It has been rushed and forced from the beginning and is only convenient for those making the decision.

This is our school, they should serve us, not themselves.

Here are links to the documents:

FOIA Return 2 (YES) FOIA RETURN 3 (FIRST TWO PAGES) FOIA return 4 (LAST 3) FOIA RETURN 5 (YES)

5 Comments

  1. This is peak student media stupidity. I was on the vision team and I will vouch that there were more then two students on it. You misunderstanding the process and timeline is embarrassing. You thinking you deserve an entire floor is embarrassing. I sat in the meeting that you told the architects that the floor wasn’t equipped to your needs and that you would be open to moving, why isn’t that written in the article? This is profoundly absurd and the last line is about as millennial as you get.

    • While an entire floor may be true, you are very misleading in inferring it’s size is large. For how many students it employs, it is an extremely small space. A few offices and a few rooms. The administration has hated the fact that the newspaper can write about ideas that conflict with uw donors. To reduce the size from its few rooms and offices would obviously reduce its ability to continue. I disagree with most the articles they produce but this is borderline infringing on the right of free Press. It’s obvious the purpose was to reduce the footprint. I know from experience that they have written the BI in the past about their disgust with some articles and even went as far as to request some articles be removed. But they can’t do that. Because of our constitutional rights. The writers are young, and make some poor points, but they have a right to that. Even if they didn’t follow the moving protocols correctly. It is still painfully obvious that this was done to hurt student media, which is much more than the branding iron.

    • You realize your committee was meaningless, right? Your input wasn’t considered. Axelson and Blackburn knew what they wanted to do from the outset and their emails show the real decisions were being made behind the scenes. Your worthless committee was put together merely for appearances. Don’t worry, though, serving on that committee is gonna look great on your résumé and I’m sure Axelson and Blackburn will reward your blind loyalty with a great letter of recommendation when you apply to grad school.

  2. Good to see the fraternities and sororities aren’t the only student groups Axelson and Blackburn run using double talk and deception. That community is in serious trouble because of their overreach that has all but eliminated self governance and has most of the fraternities on severe probation for minor offenses. President Nichols has expressed a desire to double the membership in Greek Life but that’s not going to happen when having a couple beers while watching Monday Night Football with your friends and girlfriends is looked at as an unregistered social event and lands your chapter on probation. Great use of FOIA, BI!

    • EastFratRow,

      We’d love to hear more about this. Please contact our news editor Thomas Garvie (tgarvie@uwyo.edu) with more information.

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