Pi Kappa Alpha Farewell Address

I’ve had the honor of being a part of a great organization in my four years at UW Madison. Last night was senior sendoffs and I officially became an alumni of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. Below is a transcript of my farewell address. Although it was written for the members of Pike I thought I’d share with you the same message in order to show you the great things this organization has done for me. Most appropriate it stands at exactly 1868 words, which was the year we were founded.

 

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Good evening my fellow brothers:

In an effort to not forget anything I wanted to say I have prepared a written speech for tonight. Having thought about this moment for a long time I felt this was the only appropriate way to fully express all my many feelings. I hope you take my statements earnestly for what you will hear from me is the simple, unfiltered, and thoughtful truths of a parting friend.

Before stating too much I must first recognize the debt of gratitude which I owe to the brotherhood and moreover for your continued confidence with which you have supported me in my leadership positions inside and outside of this organization. I must recognize you for being the ones who presented the opportunities I have been able to benefit from through my unwavering attachment to this organization. I have had the true pleasure of serving as Continuing Educator, Alumni Relations Chair, Public Relations Chair, and most recently the IFC delegate. In each role I have learned new skills and without your support I would not have flourished as a leader. Nevertheless, I can only hope my service to this organization matches my appreciation for you allowing me to serve in those roles. Your unquestionable support of me in whichever circumstance personal and professional has made a lasting impact on my life.

I am not here tonight to discuss the many memorable and often ridiculous stories that I have accumulated over time.  They are too numerous and to only name a few would do injustice to the others.  Let me instead state that Pike has given me the opportunity to do things I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to do. From community service projects, philanthropy fundraisers, social functions and continuing education events, all have served as lasting memories including even creating the rules to Can-Jam and Manorland.

I am here instead to express my experiences and understanding of fraternity life and moreover what Pike embodies.  Pike is much more than just a four year college experience. It is much more than three Greek letters that we bear on our t-shirts. It is even much more than the friendships that exist within and beyond this room. Rather it is a lifestyle that has embodied my actions throughout my collegiate career and will continue to guide me as I leave Madison.

Many in this room are probably unaware and others have long forgotten, but Pi Kappa Alpha was not the original fraternity I committed myself to joining. Entering in the fall of 2008 as a naive freshman who knew he undoubtedly wanted to go Greek, I was quickly persuaded by other organizations that built their institutions on the questionable foundations of parties, women, and heavy drinking. I quickly learned that fraternity life consisted of more than these shallow entities. And even more quickly, I became attracted to the values, mission, and vision of Pike.  I sensed a true brotherhood, built on the character of its men who strived to better the community in which they lived.  Dedicated to these true principles and embodying the spirit of a Sellery 2A resident, I decided to pledge myself to Pi Kappa Alpha, entering into the admirable Eta class, and embarking on a journey with many unknowns that would shape the man I am today.

Some of those unknowns existed within the true state of our chapter at the time of my pledging.  When I joined this chapter we were on social probation; forbidden to have any form of socials with sororities. As such, we quickly saw our relationships with the sororities on campus go from few to close to none. We were only about 40 members strong and struggled with an apathy problem, especially with the older members, and saw a large percentage of the fraternity lacking the energies of a zealous member.  Financially, things looked even worse. Collection rates among members were often low and as we continually struggled to fill our house at 200 Langdon, we sank to near bankruptcy.

The brothers standing before you did not take these hardships as an excuse to give up and continue to sink into oblivion. Instead, they willingly and enthusiastically took the challenge head on to build a better future for this organization and a better future for you sitting amongst us today.

And today is a much different picture than those four short years ago. We stand today 75 members strong, short of my freshman goal of obtaining a 100 member chapter by graduation but nevertheless a vast improvement since I joined.  I must qualify that unmet goal with an explanation of my great honor and excitement which I possess, for being able to leave Pike in the current population given the quality of members with which it possesses. We stand today as true exemplars of SLAG in every aspect. We continue to work towards improving our chapter GPA and have seen a reinvestment in the appreciation and understanding of the importance of high success within the classroom before all else. We stand today as leaders; not only made possible by means of our own organization, but far beyond, through means of leadership in organizations spanning across multiple interest groups including health and well being, to cultural diversity, to business based originations, to the student newspapers and even to top positions in student government. Where we could not find an appropriate organization to meet our interests or needs, our members created new ones from scratch, and built those interests into flourishing organizations.  We stand today as athletic champions on the fields and courts. There have been too many playoff appearances, too many championship appearances, and too many championship victories to count. It took us about four straight years before we lost our first softball game. Our ultimate Frisbee skills went unmatched. And intramural dodge ball ended in a championship match that pitted our Pike Team 1 versus our Pike Team 2. Even beyond our numerous intramural accomplishments we see some of our members excelling in badger varsity sports. We stand today as Gentlemen. Sorority relations are at some of their highest levels in history having shown dedication to our partners in activities like Greek Week, Homecoming, and Humorology.  We continue to support the philanthropies of sororities and our themed parties have not followed the norms of belittling members of the opposite sex.

From these actions and recent successes I have began to only most recently understand what brotherhood stands for.  Brotherhood of course rest upon the foundation of trust and is fulfilled through means of remaining true to oneself and to your brothers. From this trust through truth we reach a status of sympathy created within this brotherhood.  Sympathy is often overlooked and misunderstood, especially within a group of 75 college men. Nevertheless I aim to divulge my interpretation of how this phenomenon continues to grow within these bonds.  Simply put, sympathy is the ability to understand a feeling that someone else is experiencing and also experience that feeling, or at a very minimum understand where it is coming from.  In a sense, when we sympathize with a brother in times of prosperity, we similarly join him in the satisfaction and pleasure with which he conceives as the cause of his good fortune. In the same manner, as we sympathize with the sorrows of our brothers whenever he may see misery, so we likewise enter into sadness and displeasure for whatever may be the occasion.  This is the fundamental aspect of brotherhood that continues to inspire me as I see it unfold on a daily basis.  And it is this very occurrence that will never leave me.

Perhaps this would be a good point to stop speaking as I hope I have been able to express to you my true feelings regarding this fraternity, but alas I feel my time tonight would be of little purpose if I did not at the very least express some forewarnings to be mindful of as I graduate. I must preface, naturally, that these are merely simple offerings from a departing friend, and although I do not expect them to serve as lasting impressions I must at least flatter myself in the hopes that they will be of some partial benefit or occasional good to the chapter on the whole. 

As I have stated, Pike believes in some truly inspirational and virtuous morals. Each week we recite from memory our preamble in an effort to remember what guides our convictions and to remind ourselves of the vision of our founding fathers. Yet it is all too easy to quickly stray from those morals, reinforce stereotypes about fraternity life, and devalue the brotherhood we have worked hard to build. We say those words each week for a reason, and the expectation is that we not only memorize them as a pledge but we live by them as a brother. One thing that sets us apart from other fraternities is our close bonds and understanding of who we are. It is vital to maintain our own self-identification and not allow others either on this campus or in other parts of the country define who we are. We alone should set our standards and when we begin to sink to the levels of lesser organizations we begin to lose our identity. I pride myself on the character of each individual in this room. We have strongly improved the recruitment process over the last few years and attract undoubtedly the best men on campus. As such, let it not be forgotten that the recruitment process, is truly the lifeblood of this fraternity and without a strong flow of new members, dedicated to our cause and entering into the bonds each semester our institution is threatened with many of the same disorders as I described our state only four short years ago.  This being said however, as I look out into this audience I am confident for what the future holds for Pike. And I say this without a need or interest to pander but rather as my simple and sincerest confession.

I was recently asked by a member of the UW administration, which one thing I was most proud of being involved in or accomplishing while a student at UW-Madison. I had a lot to think about, seeing as I consider myself overly fortunate and blessed to have been a part of many great things here at UW. I thought about my involvement with setting policy for the university on behalf of the 40,000 students on campus, or my opportunity to help shape a positive experience for first year students through my years working at SOAR. But as I thought more I could not help but return to the experiences with PIKE. This organization has allowed me to interact with a very diverse group of students, serve the community, and has created a family of lifelong friends built over shared struggles and triumphs. I have had the direct role in shaping this organization as we continued to evolve. It is these shared experiences and sympathizes that I truly value and will take with me long into the future.

 

Thank you and all hail to the Garnett and Gold

Madison Initiative: Exceeding Expectations

Last week marked the first Madison Initiative Oversight Committee meeting since the board presented our final recommendations last spring to then Chancellor Biddy Martin. Our committee has since been reconstituted to focus more on the “oversight” of the current projects being funded rather than the allocation of the differential tuition collected. For those unfamiliar with the Madison Initiative it is a differential tuition model which started in 2010 aimed at targeting high impact and transformative curriculum development on campus as well as closing the $20 million gap in need based financial aid. More info can be found here

I received a breakdown of different data from my last meeting that I felt compelled to share. They are very remarkable and I’m very proud to have been part of this process. Look below at some of the great things we’ve been able to do in only a few short years. The full report can be found here.

 

Financial Aid:

  • $5.2 million (8500 students) given the held harmless grant.
  • $8.4 million (2200 students) need based financial aid-. Average grant $3900 per student
  • 36 students from rural Wisconsin received grants of $7000 each
  • An additional lucky 350 students will be receiving grants of around $2000 each at the end of the semester. Talk about a great surprise Christmas gift!

I think it is quite clear that the MIU has met if not exceeded the goals and expectations laid out by former Chancellor Martin. With these types of numbers it is hard to believe there was a sizable, albeit often uninformed, chunk of the student population who were against the ideas behind the MIU.  Nevertheless this is not an end all be all fix to our University. We much continue to ask for a larger investment from the state and to be provided with the tools and flexibilities needed to run an efficient, competitive, and culturally rich university.

If you have a story about how you’ve been impacted by the MIU please share below.

 

Response to “Legal Deal” memo: Apologies Needed

By now many of you have probably read the NPS post about graduate school Representative Thom Duncan’s “Legal Deal” memo. If you haven’t please click the link here to read the post.

I don’t think I have ever been more offended in my 4 years of service within ASM. Not only does he personally attack trusted friends and colleagues (Matt Manes, Brandon Williams, Sarah Neibart, Tyler Junger) he also bashes my entire constituency. (the students of Letters and Sciences)

In the document Duncan reveals why he has reservations regarding the creation of a Student Legal Service Center for all students at UW Madison:

 “Possible question one subquestion could be: were you fuckin’ wasted and did something adolescent?  Were you subject to your unchecked testosterone induced rage or lust and act inappropriate?  Will no one bail you out, again?  Did you trash the shit out of your apartment and expect someone else to clean up for you?

Are we really sinking this kind of cash in for 19 year olds who can’t handle their liquor or can’t present themselves relatively decent in public?”

As a representative of undergrads in L&S I have never and will never think of my constituency as ‘adolescent’ or having ‘uncheck testosterone induced rage or lust’.  The students of Letters and Science are the backbone of this institution and to belittle them and to deny them legal services are actions unbecoming of an elected representative.

On behalf of the students of the College of Letters and Sciences I am asking for Duncan’s full and sympatric apology immediately to the undergraduate students he offended. Additionally an apology is due to my colleagues, Manes, Williams, Neibart and Junger. Their service to the students of ASM has been unparalleled. As it was noted at NPS their combined service includes but is not limited to 3 SSFC Chairs, 2 SSFC Secretaries and 2 ASM Chairs.

On an aside, Duncan states  “I have serious reservations about this “service,”  because of its vague nature at this point, and I’d argue that we should employ stall tactic”.

Here you will find a link to the 51 page document outlining the plans for the Student Legal Services Center. Hope it’s not to ‘vague’

United Council Student Protests Disrupts Special Olympics Ceremony

I’m sure by now many of you reading this have seen the infamous video of student protesters disrupting a Special Olympics ceremony. And although this is relatively old news I wanted to pass along some articles and my own opinions on the matter since I know many of my constituents, personal friends, and other colleagues have a deep personal connection with the Special Olympics, some of whom have spent many years volunteering for.

For coverage on this issue please see here and here for two different opinions which each take aim from different angles and take offence for slightly different reasons.

The protests were put on by United Council, and organization that UW Madison students just months ago voted to remain members of. In my opinion these tactics don’t work but moving beyond that disrupting a Special Olympics ceremony is simply inexcusable and something I do not tolerate. What was supposed to be a pleasant congratulatory ceremony for these athletes became a quick cheap shot for these students to gain 15 minutes of fame. Unfortunately those 15 minutes come with nothing but ridicule from what is now national attention.

To quote Ricky Ricardo: “United Council, you got some ‘splainin’ to do!”

They did hastily crank out a press release immediately trying to distance themselves from this incident. I’m just having trouble buying it. You?

In a recent meeting with Assistant Dean of Students Kevin Helmkamp, he expressed his frustration with the protests and added how he had been fielding questions from angry parents phone calls all day.

Really?…Shared Governance Sans Students…

I recently had the pleasure of having lunch with a number of the Chief Information Officer finalists for UW Madison. I must say that all the candidates are extremely qualified and the search and screen committee has a really tough decision to make. The lunches were attended by key stakeholders including representatives from the University committee of the Faculty Senate, DoiT, unclassified staff, and the Academic Staff Executive Committee, as well as myself there as the student representative.

One thing that the lunches were meant to achieve was to explain to the various candidates how UW Madison’s Shared Governance process works. At each lunch the conversation turned to shared governance and a faculty member or ASEC member would explain what shared governance is and how and why we execute it here at Madison. And at every lunch students were never mentioned. The faculty members would explain how there are 3 groups that you must include in decision making policy: faculty, staff and unclassified staff. They would then go on to explain how it is very important to include them otherwise you get pushback on initiatives and the faculty are unwilling to support your mission. And every time I had to somewhat rudely interrupt and state how students also need to be included in the shared governance process.

This actually came to me at somewhat a surprise. I mean I know the faculty and staff at Madison have historically committed huge blunders if not egregious violations of shared governance policy codes. See here and here. But to not even mention them as a group you must include in the process is just absurd. I hope this is not indicative of how the entire campus feels towards student, for I have had some very good experiences with including students in shared governance.  As for now I’m left wondering what can be done to make it clear the faculty and staff here that students must be included in this process. As always I welcome your thoughts.

Oh Hey you Can’t do This Either…

Another piece of legislation being introduced at tonight’s council meeting is a motion to rescind ASM’s endorsement of The New Badger Partnership. The sponsors (Representative Pan and Representative DeQuattro) have issues with process in which the 17th session voted on this a few weeks ago. (Even though it was 100% legal)

Below is the actual language that the 17th session voted and passed. It seems as if Representative Pan and Representative DeQuattro are against the following:

“Be it resolved that, the ASM Student Council supports the proposed public authority model so long as it:

  • Maintains Shared Governance as articulated in 36.09(5), including control over the disposition of student fees and the right to organize as students see fit.
  • Includes 2 students on the Board of Trustees.
  • Maintains cost to continue for UW Madison
  • Supports an increase in need based financial aid.
  • Supports fairness in hiring and pay equity, unequivocally supports academic freedom, ensures fairness in agreements with private entities”

What’s more is that 18th session CAN’T do this. What this legislation is essentially looking to do is rescind someone else’s opinion. According to simple parliamentary procedure this cannot happen. Given that not everyone is as up to par with parli pro I’ll give some slack there however I’m a little baffled by the logic in what they are attempting to do. How can you rescind an opinion that you never made? Seems like a purely politically motivated action to me.

Well This Can’t be Legal…

In order to better serve my constituents and be as transparent as possible I want to post something real quick about a peice of legislation certain 18th session council members (Representative Akubeze, Representative Billeaux, Representative Magallon) are trying to slide through during finals week.

Here is the legislation entitled “Save WISPIRG” in which the above council members are looking to add $128,378.59 into ASM’s internal budget in order to fund WISPIRG in full.

At first glance this seems to me to be highly illegal and could be some of the the most blatant corruption I’ve seen in my now 4 years being involved in the organization. After being denied funding through SSFC this year and then the Student Judiciary upholding this decision, two of the three bodies in ASM have ruled on this case and I see this as skirting the entire funding process and the checks and balances of the organization to take this to council.

If this is not illegal I see two possible options of council moving forward with this.

1)  Council will have to cut $128,378.5 from the budget from other services, positions, or grant money in order to pay for WISPIRG.

2) This would have to go to SSFC and seg fees would need to be raised. (something, if I remember correctly, these individuals campaigned against)

Regardless of all of this I would like to know where the transparency and outreach was on this issue? A majority of the elected council members this session ran under the “I will Vote” slate who shared a common vision. I’m not too sure if they are holding up to their campaign promises. What’s possibly the most ironic is that only a few months ago current ASM Chair, then WISPIRG Secretary Allie Gardnar criticized ASM for not doing outreach and not being transparent on big ticket issues.

As always please post your thoughts, reactions and questions below.