During last week’s ASUCD elections, several candidates clung to the tired mantra of “bridging the gap between students and their Association.” For years now, this has been a favorite tactic of those desperately seeking the sense of self-approval that, apparently, only an ASUCD elected position can bring.
However, these dreams and grand promises are quickly abandoned just as soon as the ballots are counted and the lucky few who received enough thumbs up to feel important for the next year take their respective seats in the ivory tower of the Memorial Union.
The list of potential causes for this unfortunate phenomenon is lengthy, and might even go so far as to challenge the minutes of recent Senate meetings for supremacy of repetition.
Perhaps the rigors of serving as an elected official in ASUCD, which consists mainly of dealing with petty squabbling on the third floor, causes students to forget why they ran in the first place.
Perhaps the offices of senate and executive officials are so limited in their power that any tangible change they make will remain invisible to the student body, or perhaps the moment the ink dries on their resumes signals the point when they can stop caring about such lofty aspirations.
Whatever the case, it’s clear that the majority of UC Davis students are disconnected from the Association, and ASUCD hasn’t exactly been breaking its back to fix things.
Before I make myself too open to another public confrontation with one of my column’s concerned readers, it’s worth nothing that this most recent election had the second highest voter turnout in recorded history, with 26 percent of Aggies heading to the polls. Unfortunately, this statistic also means that close to three out of four UC Davis students still view ASUCD as not being worth the mere 30 seconds of their time that it takes to cast a ballot.
Last week’s election also brought the campus another irregularity. For the first time since 2005, someone who is not affiliated with the L.E.A.D slate occupies the office of ASUCD president. Joe Chatham, who, for the 74 percent of you that didn’t care enough to follow the election, will be representing the student body for the next year, has identified this disconnect since his Fall 2007 campaign for senate.
Chatham’s history of looking for way’s to “bridge the gap” and reach out to students makes him appear as the ideal candidate to finally deliver on this often ignored campaign promise. However, due to circumstances outside Chatham’s control, I’m inclined to predict failure before this new administration even gets off the ground.
The independent executive ticket faces the challenge of working with a L.E.A.D majority senate. After Thursday’s installation of the Winter ‘09 Senators, L.E.A.D will openly control eight of the 12 senate seats, possibly nine if a certain independent candidate who ran with L.E.A.D last quarter decides to toe the old party line. Such a significant majority would give the senate the ability to veto legislation, as well as override an executive veto coming from Chatham. This scenario would result in a year of passive aggressive squabbling that would force the already disenchanted student to ask why they even bothered voting in the first place.
The unfortunate reality of ASUCD is that the elected officials who make these grand promises benefit greatly from their experience, while the students they are elected to serve receive almost no positive gains. If these officials honestly aspire to deliver on this most elusive of campaign promises then I suggest they put the narcissistic desires to hear their own voices aside, and strive to make the Association something even the most apathetic of students is incapable of ignoring.
Ever wonder why JAMES NOONAN is so bitter and crotchety when it comes to student politics? Shoot him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll be happy to pinpoint the moment when he first lost faith in “the man.“