Wednesday, February 04, 2009
The ASUC shield
Yaman has an excellent post about what the ASUC really means for students. While I disagree with some of what he calls solutions, the post is definitely worth reading.
The first myth is an exceptionally important one, one that most people don't recognize, or plug their ears and shout bland platitudes when challenged on it. The ASUC has long served as a shield, wielded by the administration to protect themselves from the student body. Having a group of students that supposedly represents the student body is amazingly convenient for the administration, because it gives them a closed institution of students they can gain power in while pretending to respond to student concerns. The absolute deference to the ASUC Auxiliary's analysis that the Senate shows at their meetings is an example of this.
For various committees, a student or two is included for appearances, though that voice can just be ignored. Having that student come from a carefully managed ASUC makes it that much easier to avoid getting a student who decides to actually do something about an issue.
Perhaps the most obvious example of how the student body isn't represented by the ASUC can be seen from the simple turnout rate, which hovers around 30%. Where does the ASUC get the idea that it can claim to "speak for students" when the vast majority of students don't recognize the ASUC as their voice? Given that students can individually voice their opinions, and can form groups to voice those opinions in a coordinated fashion, the only reason to use the ASUC to voice an opinion is to claim the voices of those who choose not to speak that opinion.
It's for this reason that I don't think Yaman's "democratization" idea is a good one, because it will continue to be the case that the vast majority of students don't use this system, so it can't claim any more legitimacy than the ASUC can. And a quick survey of various online systems will show that a small group of like-minded people will quickly dominate any such system, blocking out other voices. ("The tyranny of people with too much time on their hands")
But coming to these conclusions typically requires paying attention to the ASUC for approximately a college career. By the time folks realize how broken the system is, it's time for them to move on, and the system perpetuates itself. (The only reason I'm able to run this blog is because I've been here for two college careers)
My own personal opinion is probably much closer to the administration's. I don't trust students to make responsible decisions, so the fact that the ASUC is under the administration's thumb doesn't bother me too much, aside from when fee increase season rolls around. But there are a lot of people who don't share my view who see the ASUC as something it's not.
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