Thoughts on the EVP office
More about that earlier post - yesterday night, after elections, one of my friends asked me why USAC and the EVP office are important and why I care so much. And since I’d flooded my circulatory system with some cranberry and kosher plum brandy (??) and was floating on a river of deliriously airy joy, I went on a long, impassioned rant that included table-slaps and finger pointing and some surprisingly coherent points… which, when I re-thought them sober, are the following:
USAC, as a whole, is for serving Bruins and all their diverse and varied desires and needs. There are 13 offices which address everything a student could ever want from a student government, from community service scholarships to campus safety lighting to textbook scholarships to Sunset Fun Days (or w.e. they were called) to sexual health weeks and ally awareness weeks to Fund the UC campaigns and on and on and on. USAC does a ton of shit and it really is easy to tell council what you want - you can fire off an e-mail or make public comment at council meeting. USAC, as a whole, has the potential to please everyone.
But in my opinion, it is the job and mission of the EVP office to be political - to take an active stance on and issue and then organize and agitate around that issue. We do not have to and should not have to try to please everyone with the nature of our work. Considering the breadth of avenues by which students, if they are willing to take the initiative, can voice their opinion to council, it would be redundant to turn the EVP office into a space that takes into account every single viewpoint on campus. What I mean by that is best demonstrated by the CA DREAM Act, or AB 130 and AB 131, which were lobbied for by the current EVP office and several EVP office before it. These items of legislation opened Cal Grants and UC system scholarships to AB540 students, a diverse group which include, but is not limited to, undocumented students. Naturally, legislation that gives scholarships to undocumented immigrants is a controversial issue, and many students did not approve of this by any means. However, should the EVP office have discarded the campaign in response to complaints by students who didn’t support the EVP office, essentially refusing to assist a group of students who desperately need the help?
During endorsements, which, in my opinion, are a total farce, the president of a fraternity (I believe ZBT) posed this question to the EVP candidates: should the EVP office lobby for issues that students consider controversial? The main philosophy of BU is that USAC should foster togetherness on campus; by all indications, their response to this question is ‘no, the EVP office should not lobby for controversial issues.’ But this kind of thinking completely undermines the power and access the EVP office has: it is intimately connected to UCSA and USSA, two massive student advocacy groups that operate on state and national levels, and it frequently engages with legislators both in the CA State Congress and national Congress, as well as the Regents of the University of California themselves. At one point during winter quarter, the current EVP received a direct phone call from Gavin Newsom to discuss tax initiatives and the UC system’s current funding crisis. We have a direct line of communication to the people with the power to affect the quality and the affordability of our education. If we do not use this power, if we merely sit around the table and talk about how different students feel about different issues, the EVP office is useless. If we had decided not to lobby for the CA DREAM Act because it was ‘divisive’ or ‘controversial’, what would have been accomplished? Should we seek campus unity or togetherness, at the expense of marginalized students whose struggles are misunderstood or dismissed as too political?
My firm belief is no, absolutely not. I feel that if we are constantly stopping in our tracks to ask the next student, and the next, and the next, what they feel about XYZ issue, we’ll never get where we need to go. The EVP office would be de-politicized: it would essentially sit on its own hands. The EVP office is uniquely capable of taking a stance for the students who need the EVP office to take that stance. Yes, if we lobby for whatever progressive issue, we marginalize non-progressive students, but it needs to be done. We can’t afford to sit on our hands when we have access to institutionalized powers and people who can give us what we desperately need. If we sacrifice our prerogative to campaign and lobby on specific, political issues for the sake of some vaguely defined ‘campus unity’, nothing will change about our university. Change would stagnate. If you stand for every opinion, if you listen to everyone, if you refuse to pick and choose what opinion to dismiss and what opinion to turn into a campaign that takes time and money and manpower, you really don’t stand for anything.
This is not to say that Bruins United wouldn’t take stands on certain issues through the EVP office, if they ever take that office, or that they wouldn’t be able to or would refuse to lobby on a ‘divisive’ or political issue. This is me arguing that turning the EVP office into a space dedicated to campus unity, rather than taking stances, would undermine the EVP office’s mission and abilities to effect change on campus and for the UC system. It would be great if every student could get behind the work of the EVP office and whole-heartedly support the issues we choose to work on, but that possibility exists inside the range of delusion.
We are perfectly willing to provide ways for people to lobby for their own issues through lobby certifications and the Bruin Lobby Corps, and many students have their own ways of being political. But we need the EVP office space as a space for USAC to take a stand, as a space that picks a side and fights for it with zealous determination and purpose, as a space where the people willing to put time and effort into working on those stands can do the work that needs to be done.
These opinions are entirely my own and should not be taken as a reflection of the organizations I work for, the current EVP office and Bruin Democrats, and the student election campaigns I have worked on, including Students First! and the Lana & Taylor campaign.
May I ask why you hate USAC elections?
I don’t hate them, they just endlessly frustrate me. Election season is exhilarating and nail-biting. It’s hard to explain. As someone who knows and is friends with people heavily involved in USAC, it’s very difficult to navigate the space between friendships and politics, especially if you have strong feelings about the direction USAC should take, and I wish that some people were more reasonable about their approaches to USAC/less hard-line in their attitudes.
I wish more students took the time to look critically at the candidates, and I wish more students were invested in where their money was going, and I wish we were all less eager to go for blood. But that’s not the way it is and that’s why it frustrates me.
THERE YOU HAVE IT, anon.
MY LEAST / FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR
hahaha USAC elections started
usac elections this year
WHOA WHOA WHOA DRAMA
KNEW WHAT WAS UP BUT DIDN’T EXPECT THIS
Taking pictures of straight athletes is not how you promote awareness of LGTBQ issues.
Showing ‘The Help’ is not how you raise awareness of workers’ rights.
on student government
I am terrified of spring quarter right now.
I don’t know if I am going to be able to maintain my mental health all through USAC election season.
This is not a frivolous thought… this is something I am legitimately and sincerely worried about.