Friday, October 27, 2006
The Daily Cal issued their wrap-up editorial. As we know, when The Daily Cal declares an issue over, it's over. This means Student Action can now proceed with any backup plans it might have to steal the money.
No one at UC Berkeley should be happy that any student is burdened with additional costs. But we would hope that ASUC officials can walk away from this whole affair with a greater respect for the precepts of responsible government, and that students are more aware of their own duties of political vigilance.The Daily Cal dances dangerously close to the issue, but probably should've spelled it out for folks: When you run for ASUC elected office, you agree to be bound by the ASUC's rules, including the one which puts interpretation of those rules in the hands of the Judicial Council, and if they seem unfair to you, or give you a result you don't like, that's too bad. You don't get to run to your lawyers. Remember when the GA and RSF referenda were allowed by the Judicial Council because the descriptions weren't completely inaccurate, but merely uninformatively vague? I didn't go running to my lawyers, or even appeal, despite the fact that, as a student being forced to pay fees to the ASUC, I probably had more of a legitimate external greivance than those who actually choose to run for office in the ASUC (at least for the RSF referendum). That's because I respect the ASUC's autonomy, and when it comes up with really bad ideas, I let the student body live with its stupidity.
In an ideal world, future ASUC officers would take the reimbursement controversy as a warning not to confuse their own personal interests with those of the body or, by an even effort of delusion, those of the student body. The past few weeks should be a powerful reminder of what it means to serve in an independent student government.
Being elected to office is, or at least should be, a reflection of the voting public's confidence in the abilities and policies of the particular candidate, as that candidate has presented him or herself. It is not a license to carry out whatever actions the official sees fit. Imagine if the Student Action candidates had campaigned on a slogan of appropriating $20,000 for personal legal fees; would the majorities that swept them into office still have been there?Oddly, enough, Senator Jen Avelino suggested that Student Action had the support of 5,000 students for their efforts to take the money. Maybe she was just sloppy in wording it, though.
In pointing this out, however, it is impossible to escape the fact that, en route to Student Action's electoral landslide, they faced no real opposition. CalSERVE and SQUELCH! senators, such Van Nguyen and David Wasserman, respectively, have done an admirable job in recent committee and senate meetings: They have asked the tough questions that every responsible politician should have been fighting to ask themself. But where were these efforts in April?This is an interesting point. I've said before that despite SQUELCH! having the most sensible platform, which does things such as push political activism and position-taking to individual student groups rather than trying to take credit for everything themselves, the campaign they run means that nobody can tell. People don't realize that many SQUELCH!ers are serious candidates with ideas that are far better than the drivel that comes from the major parties. And SQUELCH! doesn't do much to correct folks. I suppose Ben Narodick ran on the "I'm not funny" platform, but people probably just saw that as being ironic. (I'm not quite sure what The Daily Cal finds "insightful" about their campaign)
CalSERVE's decision not to run executive candidates and SQUELCH's insightful but ultimately unwinnable campaign are at the root of the current controversy. Student Action-affiliated candidates rode an electoral tidal wave into office, taking not just the four executive spots but also a solid majority of senate seats. If these parties really hope to counter Student Action electoral dominance, then they have to demonstrate it with their own political involvement.
Unfortunately, The Daily Cal's view is, I think, simplistic. If SQUELCH! were to run Student Action quality campaigns, I feel like it would simply turn into Student Action. It's not like the campaigns are in some different universe than governing. Student Action's campaigns are so successful because they engage in cronyism once they get power and put their campaigners into positions or give them money. Otherwise, no one would work for them, because they don't really have grand ideals that mean anything. No one is going to sacrifice hours upon hours with finals approaching to support the great cause of "increasing campus unity," or whatever the vague, meaningless goal of the year is.
CalSERVE, on the other hand, has a party structure which is self-crippling. If they can get their communities to actually agree on stuff, they can run the high quality campaigns on Student Action's level, but this agreement usually only comes when they ditch their principles and say "We're going to win," which pretty much turns them into another Student Action.
And then there is the rest of us, students for whom terms like "Legal Defense Fund" may as well be a foreign language.I dunno. That one actually seems readily accessible. Does the ASUC need to pay for some legal defense? I wonder if we have a fund for that. Really, it's because students didn't have confidence in the obvious that Student Action thought they could get away with spending from the Legal Defense Fund to cover the cost of attacking the ASUC in court. (Hint: Attacking is not the same as defending)
Even though Student Action was technically correct that they wouldn't be taking money away from student groups, they were unable to break the image of the greedy political party robbing the dance squad or the poetry review group.Actually, they weren't technically correct. They were taking away money from student groups in the future. The image was perfectly appropriate. Frankly, if we're going to be voting to raise fees on students who haven't even entered high school yet, we probably owe them a full Legal Defense Fund so there's more money available for them.
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