Divisive student politics are detrimental to all students because partisans prioritize individual gain ahead of the betterment of our university.
We are at a time of historically low state funding for our university. The Governor and State Legislature are content to sit on their hands while communities who benefit the most from the social mobility of higher education are struggling. Since 2000, the UC has added 90,000 students to its annual undergraduate population, yet the funding from the state has remained stagnant. Students and their families are the number one financial stakeholders of their education, and funding sources for our “public education” more closely resemble a private university.
Meanwhile, rent prices in Isla Vista continue to rise, while miserly corporate landlords pocket extra money. Every year the capacity of households increases to meet rent costs, while students live in dilapidated and unsafe units. Landlords would rather spend more on a campaign to ensure that tenants don’t have rights than renovate their existing units.
If we are in agreement about the issues that matter most to students on our campus, why are we so divisive?
While these are the two biggest financial burdens on students, several additional barriers to higher education exist. Wait times for Counseling & Psychological Services appointments often take weeks. Sexual violence on campus and in Isla Vista necessitates innovative solutions and requisite personnel, yet our county sheriff has repeatedly proposed reducing the number of IVFP officers.
I doubt that any of the incumbent or newly elected student leaders would disagree on any of these issues. Yet as a constituent I am dumbfounded why the divide between political parties is so vast. If we are in agreement about the issues that matter most to students on our campus, why are we so divisive?
The hyper-partisan nature of our politics is a cause of mental, emotional and academic distress for students involved in campaigning for and serving in A.S. offices. The small community of elected and appointed officers within the association is already aloof and not representative of the myriad political perspectives on our campus. Why should we further this exclusionary culture through unnecessary cliques and party rhetoric assuming that other side is incapable of doing well in elected office?
I am not in any way suggesting that we do away with political parties in our elections. We can look to UC San Diego. The solution for the divisive nature of our politics lies not in a change of policy, but rather in a reformation of character. We need to accept the fact that we are not always going to win, and that we can accomplish far more in cohesion than we can in isolation. The idea that one person, one political party or one nation has all of the right answers is the antithesis of a pluralist democracy.
We are at a time when the future of our country is reliant upon more young, environmentally aware, and racially diverse individuals serving in government.
We must re-examine the cause for our involvement in student government, and ask ourselves if bettering our institution is more our motivation than self-promotion. In a society dominated by vanity, the use of student organizations for personal gain is all too common. Participating in an activity to build a resume, or to furnish a graduate school application is the contemporary paradigm.
Students need to be supportive of each other so that we can best advocate for the concerns of the student body. We should work together across partisan lines to lobby for state funding on par with the Academic distinction of the University of California. We should campaign together to provide IV tenants with recourse against corporate despotism by passing Measure R. The psychological and physical safety of the UCSB and Isla Vista Community is dependent upon it.
Associated Students is a proving ground for those interested in civil service and elected office. We are at a moment in our nation’s history that demands our participation in government. We are at a time when the future of our country is reliant upon more young, environmentally aware, and racially diverse individuals serving in government. We must demand a higher standard of humility, integrity, and solidarity in ourselves and in our peers. We must seek out the best in each other, because the future of our community and of our nation is in our hands.
James Ferraro is calling on past, present and future student leaders to set an example of leadership.