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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Column: Quest for SR 6

Sandbox Politico

I was raised with three heroes, two of them fictional: Joe Montana, Barry Bonds and Batman. So like many northern Californians, this past Sunday’s Super Bowl loss still lingers on my palate, barely dulled by the beer I attempted to chase it away with.

“But Justin,” you cry, “this column is about ASUCD, who cares about sports?” I do friends, and to a degree so does your senate.

You may recall Senate Resolution 2, calling for aggressive overhauls in transparency for the $18 million we send in student fees to UC Davis athletics. That resolution was vetoed and died.

Last Thursday, the Senate saw another bill, SR 6, a redux of 2, calling for far milder and aggressively polite reforms to athletics. That bill skated by with a 9-3 vote, two more dissenting votes than the original, more assertive resolution.

This whole argument sounds extremely trivial. It’s a nonbinding resolution about intercollegiate athletics (ICA) — a rhetorical slap on the wrist by ASUCD asking ICA to be a little more student friendly. But upon closer examination, there are actually several interesting themes.

First, why do resolutions have value? I refer you back to last week’s column where I talked about the power of titles (yes, I know self-references are douchey). Resolutions are effective because they consolidate titles with the entirety of the senate backing them — if one title is good, twelve titles are better.

Which is why resolutions are only worth anything if they pass unanimously. Any dissent makes ASUCD look divided and fractious, sending a poor message to the administration.

Second, why did this specific resolution matter? The average UC Davis student isn’t particularly concerned with our sports teams. Yes, we’re Division I, but our last major football victory came in 2005 when we upset Stanford; not the most impressive body of work.

Sadly, sports are trapped in a vicious cycle. Students are indifferent to athletics because we don’t win, but we don’t win because students don’t care. Many top-tier athletes only want to go to schools with thriving sports programs … problematic.

How do we break the cycle?

People (and students are people, albeit slightly less washed, more haggard ones) care about issues when they have information, and a stake in the matter. Well, students have an $18 million stake in athletics, that’s big enough to wipe out the cast of Twilight (god willing), and yet we still don’t care. Why not?

Because we lack information and transparency on the issue. Gee, if only there existed some rhetorically forceful document calling for just that. Oh wait.

Which brings us to the largest issue at hand: Senators putting their own egos above student welfare.

Say what you want, athletics are important. Yes, sports are shallow, vapid and at times brutish, but there’s something beautiful about being a fan.

This Sunday was proof-positive a group of athletes can bring together a room of strangers, living breath-to-breath with the success or failure of their team. A strong UC Davis ICA could go a long way towards reviving the elusive entity known as Aggie Pride, and fostering a broader sense of campus community.

Dissenting Senators Ong, Bottoms and Topf, why would you vote to kill such a worthy effort?

Senator Ong informed me by email that she only votes for bills she is “110 percent in agreeance…and support of.”

Not good enough, not even close. What about the 110’s of students you represent; how did they feel? And if the Senator only feels confident backing rhetorical statements she’s that confident in, I would advise her to never open her mouth.

Forgive me for flippancy, but a no-vote is akin to saying, “No, I want less transparency; no, I want less control over my money.”

Couple that with Senator Don Gilbert, former athlete, emailing me, “I took some time to ask how athletes and coaches felt … they were bewildered at why … the president would veto such a message and how senate could uphold the veto.”

I never thought I’d see the day when ASUCD behaved like disconnected Washington politicians, and cast votes with themselves in mind ahead of student welfare.

The naysayers ought to be ashamed. Not merely for offering no reasonable arguments against the resolution, but also for failing to consider just how much was on the line.

I beseech the Senate to overturn the veto from President Sterling when it comes, and it will.

Let’s not allow SR 6 to conclude as the Niners’ quest did on Sunday: hard-fought, but inevitably just a little bit short of the goal.

JUSTIN GOSS dares you to condemn him for his one-sided analysis and, in so doing, legitimate his arguments. You can do so at jjgoss@ucdavis.edu.


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