We are stuck in a rut. Plagued with complacency and apathy, the current Associated Students representatives, both elected and appointed, seem to be fueled by nothing more than distant opportunities and vague commitments. Already, only 15 weeks into this academic year, election fever has taken hold of the office. Positioning tactics and slating will begin to trump writing sound legislation and speaking for constituents.
After hard-fought elections and successful campaigns, it looks as if Legislative Council members have lost touch with their greatest resource: the student voice. Safely tucked away in their offices and meetings, they discuss ideas with much merit but little foresight, like the addition of an environmental general education requirement to the endless list of required courses amid shrinking numbers of available classes. These elected officials have failed to address the more pressing issues at hand on our campus.
Possibly even more disheartening is the fact that the select few fresh-faced individuals who have the ideas and the will to move forward lack the support and enthusiastic reception that should be expected from such a group of motivated students. Not surprisingly, infighting continues to hinder the progress that could be made by those who are immune to the ills of our student government, diverting attention to stunts that flaunt technicalities and semantics.
Over the past week, an opportunity for a second wind in A.S. has blown through in the form of what may be the biggest issue concerning students all year. In an effort to curb the effects of state budget cuts, the administration increased the tax on non-state funded entities on campus. The levied tax will essentially drain money from funds created under the Students’ Initiative that was voted on last year to put money back into the accounts of services like the Rec Cen, Student Health, Campus Learning Assistance Services, Disabled Student Services and the MultiCultural Center. Students on this campus essentially opted to provide themselves with these important services at a time when the state was failing them. Now Associated Students, along with these other entities, will be hit hard, having to produce five times the amount set aside for this tax last year by the Feb. 28 deadline. A.S. alone will be required to produce an additional $96,000 in taxes to the university, bringing the total amount levied to $120,000 up from $24,000. In real terms, this translates into an entire quarter’s worth of funding for student groups that depend on Finance Board. Last week marked the beginning of real efforts made to take a stand against this tax. If the issue is left unresolved until Feb. 25, many in A.S. have suggested a “day without student services” including a campuswide strike ultimately leading to a march on Cheadle Hall.
This unfortunate situation provides us all with the unique opportunity for cooperation and communication. It is hardly a stretch to believe that if capable students both within the association and in other organizations focused all their energy on a problem as important as this one, measurable progress could be made. These issues are no longer distant possibilities that are discussed behind closed doors. They have already and will continue to affect our day-to-day lives. For any who are unconcerned about their professors having to pay more for their childcare or the idea of fewer staff members at Student Health, consider this: Simply walking away from this issue now may mean that in a month’s time, when the Rec Cen has cut its hours, you may have to find yourself somewhere else to run. Foot-in-the door policies rarely lead to moderate proposals, and without someone watching the door, we may find ourselves with nothing left.