The two party political system is the cornerstone of American politics. The Republican and Democrat parties dominate the way in which the average citizen thinks about public policy, and increasingly shape the legislative process, focusing debates along partisan lines rather than fostering an open and constructive environment for political development.
At first glance, UC Irvine appears to be the same. From the average student perspective, ASUCI is dominated by members of the Greek system, and the Cross-Cultural Center. These two institutions operate on campus much like the Republican and Democrat parties operate on a national level. It’s a seemingly exclusive club. No outsiders are welcome. It’s full of cronyism — a stagnated pool, filled with short-sighted policy making and half-sincere promises. However, this reductionist assessment of campus politics overlooks the great potential contained within ASUCI. The key word here is potential.
With each passing election cycle, it’s easy to see why UC Irvine students are infamously apathetic. Each candidate promises to bring some form of change to campus: to fight for lower fees, to bring bigger and better events to campus, to preserve various student services. It’s easy to think that the majority of these promises go unfulfilled, pushed aside for other, less lofty goals. But ASUCI has enacted some significant changes during the past few years, and provided campus with an invaluable ray of hope in a time when California’s higher education seems to be on its way to collapse.
Although ASUCI appears to be dominated by a two-party, Greek and Cross-Cultural Center, system, each passing election season gives students the chance to directly influence a portion of campus policy, and to voice their concerns to those that shape those policies. This is the last great hope, that potential contained within our campus political system.
With the recent release of the ASUCI election results, it’s clear that this year marks a shift away from the past two years of Greek leadership, and a transition to a more Cross-Cultural Center-based administration. However, instead of looking at the differences between each of these so-called parties and arguing about which group can better fulfill their proposed platforms, students should take this change as an opportunity to express their ideas on campus policies and reform. There is finally a chance to move away from the two-party mindset and realize that all students can utilize their voice if they just speak up.
In the past, students have worked together to enact significant campus change, regardless of their affiliated groups or organizations. This was apparent in the passing of TGIF, or The Green Initiative Fund, referendum in 2009. A wide range of students from an array of campus organizations campaigned extensively for this act that advocates for a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly university campus. Because of their great campaign efforts, the initiative was actually able to pass that year, which is something that can’t be said about past election year referendums. For example, last year’s SOAR referendum received a majority vote, but quorum was not met, so this initiative could not pass. Reversely, this year’s quorum was met for both the Anteater Express and ASUCI Initiative referendums, but neither of them could pass due to a lack of majority vote for each.
Even though it may be disappointing to some that neither could pass, at least students are becoming more involved in campus politics and are voting more when compared to past years.
This year as a whole, there seemed to be a much stronger election presence from all candidates, regardless of their slates. For the first three weeks of spring quarter, Ring Road was bombarded with candidate fliers, booths and giveaways for the majority of each day. Although this constant campaigning may have been obnoxious and invasive at times, the effort and passion exhibited by each candidate is commendable: students are finally putting in the time needed to affect change.
It’s time to look past partisan politics on our campus. In spite of its bland outward appearance, UCI is known for its innovative and avant-garde approach to academics and student life, a natural outgrowth of life in a planned community. There are few other campuses where such rich pockets of creativity bubble up from between the cracks of beige houses, faux-villages, strip malls and eternal sunshine; where those that remain on quiet Friday nights, after the commuters have gone home, take part in a surprising array of campus activities.
There’s something special to be said of UCI’s apathy and beigeness — it breeds innovation, whether in social life, or in student government. As with much else on this campus, ASUCI remains a relatively malleable entity, waiting to emerge from behind a wall of seeming impenetrability to be shaped and reshaped with each passing election into the true realization of what it was created to be: a body of public servants. Anteaters, it’s time to seize our full potential. Our university is a blank canvas, and ASUCI, a brush. The time has come to paint it over with all the colors of Aldrich Park under the swift sunrise of spring.
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