The Associated Students of UC Irvine manipulated votes in last month’s student election in an effort to get their student fee initiatives passed despite widespread opposition.
We’re not talking about the oft-criticized $12,000 publicity campaign designed to sway public opinion for the three referenda, but about a separate effort to force students to vote a certain way at the polls (or, more accurately, to force them to vote in one of two ways).
Attentive students who voted online may have noticed that whereas they could click on an ‘abstain’ option when voting for the candidates running for office, they were only faced with two options for each of the referenda, ‘yes’ and ‘no.’
Furthermore, the buttons were such that when ‘yes’ or ‘no’ had been clicked, one’s vote could be changed from one option to the other but not withdrawn entirely, short of logging out of the polling page and signing back in.
This was likely done with the intent of decreasing abstentions, thus making it less likely that any of the three referenda would fail on the basis of not enough students voting. Although two of the three referenda did fail, ASUCI was successful in this respect: none of the measures were defeated as a result of too many students abstaining.
You might think that after attempting to rig an election, someone would want to avoid bragging about it on the Internet (it’s difficult to imagine George Bush crowing about the 2000 Florida fiasco on his Xanga), but not ASUCI.
Last week, the New University received an e-mail from a student drawing attention to the fact that an ASUCI Legislative Council member was gloating on the popular Web site AnteaterForum.com about the con that had been pulled.
It is not our intent to engage in ad hominem attacks, and we suspect that curious students can find out the council member’s identity with little difficulty, so we won’t identify the author of these quotes, but suffice to say that we are appalled by the contempt that is shown by the speaker for the student body as a whole:
‘There is much in terms of how we tried to manipulate the votes that I wanted to do that we couldn’t. I mean ASUCI took a specific position I don’t see why we wouldn’t try to manipulate votes?’
‘You damn liberal hippies. All this ‘manipulation’ and ‘fairness’ god, talk about bleeding hearts. Suck it up and take it biatches!’
‘The students will vote on whatever I tell them to vote on!! ALL HAIL ME! KINGMAKER!’
‘Just realize that manipulate and do something illegal and illicit are not the same thing, and you go run around saying we did something illegal you’re being an idiot.’
While it may be true that what ASUCI did in the election was not in violation of any laws, it is distressing that a tiny group that alleges to speak for the students has become so self-righteous as to dictate their beliefs even when they are in opposition to those of the student body as a whole.
This is not to say that there are no good people in ASUCI. Every year, there are a few who seem to show a genuine concern for students and who try to advocate for their well-being, which makes it even stranger that they allow members like the one quoted above to drag the organization’s reputation through the mud year after year.
Whether ASUCI members view the million-dollar budget as their own personal trust fund with which to finance their corrupt spending, or whether, because of apathy or downright disdain for the students, they try to ignore or subvert the will of the public, whenever ASUCI complains about being underappreciated by the students, they have no one but themselves to blame.
It’s nearing the end of the year, and new representatives are about to take over the reins in ASUCI, so as a service to them, we would like to present a quick three-point lesson in good leadership.
1. No one voted for you. You might think that you’re a big man (or woman) on campus because you won the election, but no one knows who you are. How many students can name our current vice president of student services? How many even know that there is a vice president of student services?
Even in the most high-profile job, next year’s ASUCI president received hardly any votes (about 7.4 percent of undergraduate students voted for her). To put it another way: 92.6 percent of students who were eligible to vote did not vote for her.
2. You are being paid to represent the students. You might think that $500 a month is less than you deserve, but many of the students paying your salary are working several jobs just struggling to make ends meet. Fifty-four dollars, the annual fees paid by each student toward ASUCI, might not be a huge sum, but to many students, it’s a significant chunk of change. The money that you are spending has been taken from the students. It’s not just some magical money that materializes out of nowhere.
3. It is not your job to represent your buddies in the Cross-Cultural Center or the guys in your frat. Everyone knows that only Greeks and Cross kids follow campus politics. They provide an important perspective, but they don’t speak for most students. It might be harder to stand up to the CCC because they’re more visible and more confrontational than most groups, but when they’re pushing for something that you know the majority of students are against, it is your responsibility to tell them ‘no.’
Similarly, even if your Greek friends helped to finance your campaign, diverting more money into throwing another dumb reggae-rock concert (with free booze) that appeals only to them and their ilk might not be the best use of student funds.
Good luck. We know it’s a thankless job, and we expect you to be every bit as egocentric, corrupt and incompetent as your predecessors. Please prove us wrong.
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