By Dan Post
Illustration by Mike Padilla
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, March 3, 2005
If you care about student representation at the UA, then this week and the next are the most important of the year. Primary elections finished yesterday, and now the field for executive positions is narrowed down to two each.
But it feels the same now as it does any year during Associated Students of the University of Arizona elections. Popular faces are running on seemingly empty platforms. Many of the candidates seem to be obsessed with themselves and don't seem to care a lick about students. The candidates pledge to increase student awareness in ASUA, which seems like a self-proselytizing campaign promise. It's like saying "vote for me because I will make you more aware of me." Passion for the job does not mean inspiring passion in yourself, but inspiring passion and confidence in your ability to lead on issues that the student body cares about.
When last year's President Alistair Chapman took office, he too set out to decrease student apathy, but he understood how to achieve it. His leadership and achievement in working as a lobbyist and representative for the student body should not go unnoticed. It is clear that the winners of next week's general election will have a tough path to follow. The bar has been raised high by the 2004-2005 crop of elected officers.
In the nearly four years that I have been a student at the UA, no ASUA-elected officials have created as much stir and positive change, nor have any wielded as much influence as Chapman and company have. In review, this year's ASUA has successfully lobbied for students against the administration in several cases, and each time they produced a hard-fought victory, their credibility and power increased.
Back in September, with students outraged at the cancellation of commencement without their input, the student executives pushed the issue to the forefront of the campus conscious. The administration was talking out of both sides of its mouth: decrying the childish tortilla throwing at graduation, citing the ceremony's symbolic importance and then canceling commencement outright. The students needed a leader to catch the administration in this horrible hypocrisy and Chapman delivered. His leadership propelled President Peter Likins to rescind the decision to cancel commencement. No doubt many were more joyous on Dec. 18, due to ASUA's vigilance.
Also last semester, ASUA spearheaded a successful voter turnout drive. They organized voter registration drives with Nappy Roots as an incentive, and attracted nationally-renowned speakers to engage students in a political discussion. Though Michael Moore and David Hardy didn't give students much real political philosophy (Moore's incessant Bush-bashing and lack of policy discussion was disappointing), they did sell more than 15,000 tickets to both events, and proved that the UA community was willing to pay for what the state denied them in extra-curricular money.
ASUA organized the first early voting site on the UA campus, and opened it up to all Pima County residents. The ASUA executives collaborated across campus to hold a debate between John McCain and Stuart Starkey. President Chapman even negotiated on behalf of the greatest UA club that no one has heard about, Students for Fair Trade, by convincing the student unions to sell fair trade coffee. The "Third World" thanks you. Now, ASUA has successfully pushed the issue of class availability into any proposed tuition change by the administration, and has gotten the students what they've wanted for 20 years: a student section in McKale center.
It sounds like I may be in love with Alistair and the other ASUA officials from this year, but that's not really the case. I am just impressed by the laundry list of achievements in the name of students' and world good. This example will be hard to match, especially considering first impressions of this year's contenders.
But if they follow the model set by Chapman, the sky could be the limit. They need to know when to pick and choose battles with the administration; you can't win them all. Take on issues that are already backed by a wide swath of student passion. Several of the candidates have keyed in on this by addressing the perpetual discomfort of female students due to the lack of safety on and off campus. By following the pulse of the student body's collective consciousness and acting on their passions for the betterment of the university, the newly elected officials could be as successful as their predecessors. If they are, there is no telling how powerful we students can become in creating the kind of college we would want to attend.
But for now, the candidates don't seem like they're on the same level as Chapman and the current ASUA. Let's hope for more.
Dan Post is an anthropology and ecology senior. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.