Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Last week, on the Activism Over Yonder festival:
Ms. Allbright said the next guest speaker was Sarah Ehrlich. Ms. Erlich said she would like to thank them for letting her speak. Part of the problem on the campus was not its size, although that was a problem, but a huge polarization in terms of empathy and political beliefs. She thought a lot of the student body was dormant, or sort of felt helpless. There was so much going on that they supposedly had no control over. But she thought this event showed that they could actually mobilize hundreds of thousands of people, starting with a couple of thousand people here. Who was to say this couldn't happen at UC Davis or UCLA or other schools? What really struck her was the hundreds of people storming the stage. She never witnessed that kind of energy before. Everyone was standing up and dancing, and it was infectious. It was a way of engaging people. Isaac Miller spent months of his life organizing this event. Students get so caught up in their personal and academic lives that they constantly overlook a really critical form of expression that could actually bring them together and cause some progress. She was asking the Senate to please help sustain this project and to let it go on. Not to sound trite, but this really was the future, and a way to actually be progressive. She wanted to thank them very much.Really? Storming the stage is the way to be progressive? Rapping? Whining? Feeling energy? Can't "actually being progressive" involve, say, changing things? Speaker after speaker went up to talk about how powerful the event was, but what changed? What was actually accomplished that will have an impact down the road?
Some senators are starting to get pissed at the Executives independent efforts without getting approval for the Senate. Danny Montes discussed the Higher Education Act, and how the office was trying to get folks to ask Barbara Lee to pass it (at the behest of the USSA). Senators Weiner, Kunert, and Osmeña, and Senator Wu's proxy all expressed some unhappiness with the approach that the EAVP was taking. I've excerpted Montes's report last week on Extended, and recommend you read it and see what you think. The reality, though, is that unless these Senators actually file a charge sheet to stop the practice, it will never stop, no matter how much they whine.
In response, Roxanne Winston said:
She would also like to say that one thing that was constantly lacking was respect for their fellow Senators, for students in the room, and for elected officials. While the conversation the Senate had that evening wasn't inappropriate, it was also not constructive. As EAVP Montes said several times, people should talk to him personally. Ms. Winston said she's talked to him and knew that people have not approached him about these issues. If it was so important to Senators, she would ask why they didn't approach Mr. Montes and talk to him about it. The manner the Senate addressed those issues was completely disrespectful and condescending. She would ask them to please check themselves when they were in this room and remember they were all students. No one had any right to disrespect anybody else. In the future, the Senate could work harder to be nicer to people.I'm not impressed by the "deal with it ahead of time" approach. It makes it easier to keep things hidden from the student body. If Danny Montes wasn't prepared to defend his actions it means he hasn't even been thinking about whether or not he has the constitutional authority to do what he's been doing with his office.
Mr. Weiner asked if she was suggesting that the business of the ASUC Senate should take place outside the Senate Chamber and off the record, and in rooms students didn't have access to. Ms. Winston said she wasn't saying that at all. She was saying it would be nice for somebody to speak to people they had an issue with beforehand and to bring something to the floor when necessary. Just because they were elected as Senators didn't mean they were God.
There's also no particular reason to respect other elected officials. I found Montes's answers to be far more disrespectful to the Senate (and student body) in their content-free nature and shifting justifications. The Senate is a proxy of the student body, and has a right to ask these questions, and when executives complain "Hey, you should have talked to me ahead of time off the floor" rather than actually justifying their actions, they're essentially trying to cut the student body out of the discussion. In the face of potential constitutional abuse, Winston is concerned about tone? Weiner and Osmeña were straightforward about what their concerns were, but I guess that's ruder than trying to kill the discussion, as Montes and Allbright did. Should content really be sacrificed for politeness?
Mr. Weiner said she suggested that the EAVP office should decide how it took action by personally gauging the will of the students by speak to students people in the office ran into. He asked if that's how Executive Offices should be run in general. Ms. Winston said she thought Executives were elected by over 3,000 students, more than any Senator. Elected by so many students, she felt Executives could make decisions that the students would want them to make.I think Winston just argued away her own job. In any case, being elected doesn't mean that students approve of any decision you make. The Senate is openly and publicly accountable. The Executives are not. The Senate is exactly where these decisions should be made. Remember that the Executives were elected to do the job of the Executives, not to do whatever the hell they wanted.
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