Time to #OccupyASUCI

Smart leadership: It’s what student government should be about, right? Putting the money where it needs to be and advocating for what the people want. However, in light of recent events, it’s hard to be sure whether student fees at UC Irvine are going toward the right institutions, and whether the guidance of our Associated Students is really what it was promised to be.

In all fairness, ASUCI does some good work. The office of the Executive Vice President goes to the University of California Student Association Student Lobby Conference in Sacramento every year to lobby at the State Capitol on behalf of higher education issues. ASUCI also offers the Anteater Mentorship Program to connect peers. On Oct. 18, the Legislative Council passed a bill titled “Against Criminalization of Peaceful Protest,” to condemn the Orange County District Attorney’s actions against the Irvine 11.

But these occasional deeds don’t make up for consistently neglecting its responsibilities as a student government.

To be frank, it’s like high school all over again. The student government is simply an organization of the kids who campaigned for nothing more than a popularity contest with no substance and end up becoming the party-planning committee that arranges school dances.

We’re at the University of California. It’s time to grow up.

Recently, ASUCI considered allocating $170,000 of its budget toward hosting a concert at the Bren Events Center, featuring Avicii, Steve Aoki and Dev.

Out of 5,000 potential seats in the Bren Events Center, only 1,000 were going to be offered to UCI students, with the rest being offered to the population at large. Even if the event sold out, the profits would have been minimal. Considering UCI’s track record of event attendance, banking on breaking even probably isn’t the smartest idea (see: 2010 Common concert).

The event would be sponsored by the students while serving a majority of non-UCI students. Something sound a little out of whack? We sure think so.

In this sort of economic climate, it’s hard to believe that our own student government was planning so frivolously. According to the LA Times, the UC Regents have already hiked tuition by roughly 20 percent, with an expected annual 16 percent increase to follow over the next four years. That amounts to registration fees exceeding $20,000 — not to mention textbook fees, lab fees and most recently at UCI, the notorious eTech fee.

We’re fortunate that the concert proposal was shot down during public conference two weeks ago. It might have become yet another colossal waste of our money when there’s little money left to be wasted.

Sound familiar? It’s this very sort of economic mismanagement that many Americans, including the “Occupy” protestors are currently frustrated with. That being said, can you imagine a scenario where something like “Occupy ASUCI” became a reality? More importantly, why shouldn’t it be? It’s this “1 percent” mentality that is the very reason so many problems exist in the first place, with this university being no exception.

Our student government needs to start considering the whole population, not just the faces they see inside the double doors of the Student Center. There seem to be countless windows of opportunities that ASUCI just hasn’t yet looked through. During Welcome Week, we set another world record at the dodgeball game. We seemed like a big, happy family. Students turned out in large numbers, it was well organized by ASUCI and then it was over. It doesn’t take a dodgeball game, Reggaefest or Shocktoberfest to unite people. Instead of attempting to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars for another concert in the Bren, why not do something fiscally responsible and uniting?

In the wake of the financial crisis following fiscal irresponsibility, that $170,000 could have easily been applied to a number of causes: establishing ASUCI-sponsored scholarships for students in need, organizing support groups for our sports teams or improving student transportation.

Instead of planning a concert that could once again finish in red figures rather than black, why doesn’t ASUCI focus on the 99 percent? If ASUCI wants to plan events, why not do it with the intent of fostering friendships, rather than entertaining a select few?

Here’s a suggestion: “The Park After Dark.” When a majority of students are considering whether to beat traffic or wait for it to die down on a Friday night, make them consider whether a social gathering on campus is worth attending. We are a campus built around a luscious park; let’s use it. Providing something as cheap and simple as music (doesn’t always have to be live), an opportunity to meet new people and socializing on a Friday night might serve more of an audience than an Avicii concert. Invite a local deejay or artist, feature a dance performance from Kaba Modern or invite an alumni musician to return and perform.

Why is it that our school spirit is dismal, despite so much attention being paid to live entertainment? Why is it that our association with UCI ends the second we get our diplomas?

Simple. Whether it has to do with entertainment or activism, the culture here is reactive rather than proactive. The Associated Students of UC Berkeley, for example, didn’t wait until their rights were on their final breaths to lobby to revise City Council districts to establish a student majority region. To encourage students to seek academic excellence, the Associated Students of UC Los Angeles provided both need and merit-based scholarships long before the economic disaster hit. The Associated Students of UC San Diego established Volunteer Connection, helping link students to volunteer opportunities for over 20 years.

The best opportunity arises with hardship. How many of us could spare an hour or two to attend an Occupy Irvine or Occupy UCI protest, and fight for our own rights? How much would it boost both campus and community morale if ASUCI were to organize buses to and from the event? Imagine UCI students pouring out of buses by the hundreds to seize the very rights they claim have been taken from them.

Who wants to look back on their college years and remember little more than the drive to and from a sleepy campus or a poorly-attended concert? UCI shouldn’t be just an educational outlet; it should be our home. College is a fundamental sector of each and every one of our lives; we need to make the best of every moment. We need to rally the people. We need to foster a sense of belonging, of community instead of the few cliques we have now. We need to transform the “UCI students” into the “UCI student body.”

When each of us arrived at this campus, we all did so under certain expectations. As our college careers progress, more and more of our programs and opportunities that were once marketed in a package that was served up as a distinguished university, are quickly disappearing.

If our student government won’t lead a charge, who will? When there’s a protest on campus, where’s ASUCI? When Occupy Irvine is taking place, where are all of these student leaders?

“Hi, I’m (insert name), I want your vote for (insert position) so that I can become a politician someday. But once elected, I assure you that I won’t do anything. Never mind that programs and majors are being cut, did you guys want to learn how to Cat Daddy? Yeah? Those creepy dudes with the hepatitis over there are going to teach you.”

EEE — no longer free. LARC tutoring? Downsized. Student fees are skyrocketing. At a bureaucratic university that has to cut through red tape to get anything done, there lies another bureaucracy. ASUCI is supposed to be a student government. For those who consider themselves leaders within it, start treating it as such and stop thinking about the 1 percent. Make yourself present on campus, because Berkeley and UCLA are putting our campus to shame.

Maybe ASUCI is too timid to take action and risk their stipends. Maybe they think they’re actually making a difference. The students of UCI deserve better. If you’re going to sit on your hands when student activism and campus institutions need you, then don’t bother to run for re-election. Until the day these student leaders stop pretending to lead and govern the people that they represent, why not Occupy ASUCI until action is taken?

Please send comments to newuopinion@newuniversity.org. Include your name, year, and major.