. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Nap Time!!!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Someone pointed me to an article. Some guy wants to abolish the student government at the University of Arizona. Why do we care? See if any of this sounds familiar.
Since they do little actual legislating, the only remaining authority granted to ASUA is to provide services, the most inefficient function of governments everywhere.


What about student clubs? One of ASUA's major duties is appropriating an annual budget of $100,000 to clubs and groups across campus, a process that requires funding requests to be heard by an appropriations board, the student senate, approved by the president and managed by a treasurer. Student groups ought to get some stipend from the university - but there's no need for clubs to plea before a cartel that doles out cash.


Finally, the useful services that ASUA provides could operate just as smoothly as independent clubs - perhaps even more effectively without loads of bureaucratic oversight from ASUA.


Exclusion from policy discussions and failure to voice student opinion is a dangerous combination, because it gives the university administration a complacent buffer between their actions and student opinion. As long as ASUA exists, they will turn to our excluded, impotent student leaders as the voice of students - rather than to students themselves.

posted by Beetle Aurora Drake 2/06/2008 07:02:00 PM #
Comments (10)
. . .
ASUC: Better Voter Turnout Than Mali!

Seriously though, this is the worst kind of crybabying - "it's not working, so let's quit rather than try to make it better." All the time that guy spent trying to explain what was wrong other than pointing out that they are fixable problems and proposing solutions.

If he/you put 1/2 of that destructive energy into constructive policy solutions or plans, you might just get what you want and then some.
Because no one has ever tried to fix these issues. They're all just waiting for us to swoop in and save them with our awesome policy solutions and plans. Give me a fucking break. I've offered my help, but if folks aren't interested, I'm not going to crawl and beg.

The dude did point out solutions. Spinning off programs from the student government, letting funding decisions be made outside of the student political process, etc. They aren't fixable problems, though, because those solutions offend the interests of those in power.
dude... sweeping generalizations suck.

But that's part of a democracy. If people won't accept your help, you have to earn their credibility. You can't complain that your help hasn't been accepted when you haven't tried to get elected or put something on the ballot.

The difference, by the way, between "some solutions" and "destructive attitude" is proposing that some programs and funding systems be streamlined, not all of them.
It only seems destructive to those who take student government as a given. To those who are part of the student government, eliminating its authority is not a solution, it's a "destructive attitude." To the general student body, though, there's no reason to take student government as a given. That is, these solutions are unacceptable to those with power, because it would make them less important and less powerful. They see such a result as "destruction."

I'm not complaining about not having my help accepted, I'm just letting you know that I have offered it. I've provided policy proposals to the Senate, applied to be AG, wrote an entire essay about crises waiting to happen and some ideas for solving them, etc.
I know we've had this argument before, but let me clarify some positions.

1) The ASUC is not a student government - it is a student union. Everyone always refers to it as a government... what exactly would it "govern"? Even still, you're right - the ASUC is not a given, and it does need to earn the respect of the student body. In fact, if the ASUC disappeared right now, the campus would be gone. You could say the same thing about a lot of other parts of campus.

But the ASUC has done great things in the past and it has the potential to do more in the future. The question is: are its current problems systematic or leadership-based? From past experience, I'm going to cite the leadership.

2) I know your help has been hastily rejected in the past, even if it was snarkily delivered. But that, again, can be blamed on the leadership. If you have great ideas, convince more people to pick up the banner.

3) Although the ASUC is not a given, it still does more harm than good. The services it provides are not vital to the campus - and really shouldn't be. Rather, it helps shape the life of students in ways that are implicit and explicit. Without them, you'd still get a Berkeley experience - just not the same experience or an equivalent with similar quality.
My past experience suggests the problems are systematic. Those problems are what gives rise to the problematic leadership. Because the ASUC is not a government, students aren't particularly motivated to get involved and hold it to account. For example, there's no way I would ever put in the effort to "convince more people to pick up the banner" because the benefits of a principled ASUC are almost nil. Whenever I do try to convince people, they say "Why do you even care about the ASUC, it's so unimportant..." and I hear this even from people who are part of the ASUC. Because the stakes are so low, to most folks, the ASUC is either their playground or someone else's playground, and neither view gives rise to a willingness to build a solid organization. This isn't correctable. The ASUC cannot be a government. The best we can aim for is to free our voices from the yoke of the ASUC (where the representatives can essentially hijack our voice as "the voice of students" to either whine ineffectively to nobody in particular (external bills) or to make personal deals with the administration) and save our dollars.
This is where we get to the dividing issues. Essentially, your problem with the ASUC is that it's a representative democracy - that it elects idiots. That's the systematic problem. Students don't care and students don't vote for the right people.

Anyway, I think the benefits of a multi-million unified student union with principles are infinite, as opposed to just giving 33,000 $50 each and telling them to go have a couple of pitchers of beer.

And again - the ASUC is not a government, and you can't expect it to fulfill the role of government. It has nothing to govern.

Also "free our voices from the yoke of the ASUC"? Really? If the ASUC is so insignificant, what yoke is placed on your expressive rights? What was the last "deal" that the ASUC exclusively made with the administration that was binding to all students?
One immediate example that comes to mind is the AC requirement. While not an exclusive ASUC effort, it's the sort of thing where the ASUC claims the voice of students and then gets controlled by a few activist gruops, and then whines to the Academic Senate.

You can throw the RSF fee on the list, too. When the university teams up with the ASUC to bring their combined resources to bear, there's no way to fight it. The university has the legitimacy of the ASUC's support ("the students' support") as a shield, and the ASUC has the huge resources of the university to campaign with.

Drop deadline, Lower Sproul fee, dead days, affirmative action, money for illegal immigrants... we're lucky the ASUC fails so often, but the fact that my money and my supposed voice are being used to fight for these things is no less an issue.

We can see for ourselves what the benefit of the multimillion dollar student union are, and they are pretty clearly not infinite. 10 burritos (the official ASUC unit of monetary worth) are far more beneficial for most people. To say that we only need to elect better people doesn't mean anything if there isn't a feasible way to do so.

I don't see why having a representative democracy should be seen to be a positive outside of a governmental context. Since it is not a government, it doesn't need the vague sense of legitimacy that comes from voting. The theoretical "consent of the governed" doesn't need to exist since we aren't governed. As such, there's no independent value in having an elected student "government," and breaking it down because of the systematic issues that come with a weak body representative of students who are not interested in it is an entirely reasonable position to hold. It's not "destructive." There's nothing sacred about the act of voting that makes anything voted on good.
RSF Fee, Lower Sproul Fee: voted on by students.

Drop Deadline, AC Requirement, & Dead Days: Exclusively university policies. ASUC has nothing to do with them - all it can try and do is lobby administrators. In fact, the AC requirement may be out the door soon in its current form because profs hate teaching it.

Affirmative action and illegal immigrants? Are you kidding? The amount of time the ASUC spends on this issue is so minute it isn't even funny. Yeah, the Senate bitches about it sometimes, but given all the other stuff the student union works on, it's minimal. And, again, you may not agree with these policies but the majority of students that vote supposedly do.

I can just as easily point to the other things that the ASUC does now: the Student Advocate Office, the art studio, the "mostly ineffectual but sometimes important" lobbying with the university for campus policies, the Publications Center, the Open Computing Center, the support of Blue & Gold Yearbook - that are worth more than 10 La Burrida Burritos to almost any student.

That's not to say anything for the historical work of the ASUC, particularly with the development of the student union and Eshleman. I'm not talking about the modernization projects - I'm talking about the actual buildings that provide storage and working space for about a hundred student groups.

As per the "consent of the governed" argument, what other system do you have in mind for the leadership of the union? Monarchy? Administrator nominations?
The Student Advocate Office is an excellent example of an ASUC program that should be independent of the ASUC. Student Advocates, for instance, are not elected in practice. The office perpetuates itself, and puts forward a single nominee who wins the election.

I don't hesitate the slightest bit to value any number of burritos over the fucking Blue and Gold yearbook. I don't use the Open Computing Facility, finding the library's computing facilities far more effective and reliable. Leave funding the art studio to the people who use the art studio. Ditto for the Publications Center. Or hell, you could even let the university fund publications directly. Why do we need the ASUC to do so?

Affirmative action and illegal immigrants refers to the UCSA, and by extension the USSA goals it serves, which we are forced to support through the ASUC. The UCSA isn't even subtle about being a tool of the Democratic Party.

The RSF and Lower Sproul fees were heavily campaigned for by both the university and the ASUC. "Voted on by the students" means nothing when the vote is dominated by the university, and means even less if you don't get a majority to vote (much less vote yes). To suggest that the ASUC dealings with the university were not instrumental in putting those on the ballot is simply being willfully blind.

The ASUC doesn't have "nothing to do" with university policies. You say so yourself when you list "the "mostly ineffectual but sometimes important" lobbying" as one of the benefits of the ASUC. The AC requirement came from the purported "voice of the studentss," not the administration. I'd be glad to see it die, but call me when it actually happens.

Why does it really matter if the majority of students support an opinion? They can state their opinion themselves. Why do we need to consolidate the opinion of both those who agree and those who don't into a "student voice"? Students can speak for themselves. In any case, the actions of the Senate and what "the majority of students support" are not always (or even often) aligned. See Lower Sproul fee. Or even SB-"Pay our legal fees".

The consent of the governed argument goes to the extent of the union, not how it selects its leaders. We aren't 'governed' by the ASUC, after all. Since it doesn't have to exist, and it can't even get a majority of the students it purportedly represents to show up to vote, why should it exist, if you're so enamored with the majority vote?

Administrator nominations are widely used for student representation, often with superior effectiveness, especially when done by the faculty. Instead of the popularity contest that decides ASUC leaders, faculty are usually looking for students actually interested in carrying out a job.
Post a Comment

. . .