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Davis, California

Monday, September 20, 2021

Column: Titles matter

Sandbox Politico

If you attended my farewell you heard me talk about why the mantle of senator was one I bore with some amount of disdain. If you missed my farewell, then you forsook comedy gold and should immediately go on Facebook and watch all 17 minutes of it.

The message was this: I was uncomfortable with my title because when people uttered it, it was as though they raised me up or had some heightened expectation of me. “But that’s wrong,” I thought. I’m just like any other student. And because of this mindset, my friends, I was a mediocre senator at best.

You see, titles matter. ASUCD has an odd obsession with outreach and programming. When we’re in office we get lonely and we think because we have a fancy title people should de facto know who we are. This too is the wrong mindset.

Who’s your state senator, your member of Congress, your assemblymember? How many of you got all three? Point being, we barely pay attention to real politicians, so why should sandbox politicians expect the world to know us?

Titles matter because they give respect where previously there was none. It’s a bargaining chip to the administration and to real government officials in Davis, Yolo at large (if you just screamed “YOLO” we are no longer friends) and Sacramento. It’s these officials who have actual power and this is why the most important work ASUCD does stems from our titles.

Let’s go back just a year to the UCOP tax and Shared Services. The University of California President Formerly Known as Yudof wanted to levy a fairly hefty tax on all ASUCD transactions. Further, he wanted to consolidate our business practices into a joint office called Shared Services. These moves would have cost students and career administrators their jobs and forced the Senate to cut services across the board.

Outgoing ASUCD President Adam Thongsavat and his successor, current President Rebecca Sterling, entered into negotiations with UCOP and our own university administration to delay and decrease the tax. Think they would have listened to any student? Think again. They got the job done because of their titles, an example of a unified ASUCD succeeding.

Let’s go back further to 2009. Then ASUCD Senator Jack Zwald (who would later become president) balked when the University Rate Group sought to levy a 4.56 cent tax on all credit card transactions made at the ASUCD Coffee House, while exempting Sodexho, who runs the Silo and the dining commons.

Zwald called for a fairer, proportional tax in Senate Resolution 25, but was opposed by the contemporary executive office of Joe Chatham and Chris Dietrich, who wanted the fee entirely nullified. Too much infighting led to breakdown in the talks and the tax has stood ever since.

If ever there was an example of political infighting costing the student body this was it.

So you see, the biggest battles ASUCD fights are fought with school, city or state administrators — and these fights are primarily won or lost based on the degree to which our student government properly internalizes its own title swag, and protects those of us with less glamorous monikers (“columnist” doesn’t have the same ring).

I’ve given you two examples of ASUCD being in try-or-die scenarios, where their success or failure could tangibly, and monetarily, impact the lives of the entire campus. Compare that to my own program of Meatless Mondays (which I’m still damn proud of). Saving student jobs versus slashing the price of tofu? Which do you think is more important?

What’s more, most “senate projects” can be implemented without actually being on Senate. I could have feasibly requested an audience with Darin the CoHo director as a normal student, I most certainly could not get myself on the fourth floor of Mrak without one … at least not without a police escort.

ASUCD, you talk frequently about your elected station being a privilege, but I wonder if you truly know what that means. Your station grants you access and prestige other students do not have. It is your job to represent them because your title grants you a voice in the presence of normally deaf ears.

I thought my title was a burden, but I was wrong. The expectations it comes with should not be thought of as an embarrassment, but as a gift.

So ASUCD, reassess what the thrust of your job truly is, and what it truly means to help students. Because a title can make up for a lot in this world, even with a name as commonplace as Justin.

JUSTIN GOSS is just some ordinary guy who you probably have no interest in talking to. If you’d like to, however, you may do so at jjgoss@ucdavis.edu.


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