ASUCI Sidesteps Demands to Stop Selling SeaWorld Tickets

If you’ve ever set foot in the ASUCI office, you may have noticed the bulletin board displayed in the reception room that boasts a list of amusement parks for which ASUCI offers discounted tickets. This seems like a great idea; students (barely) save money and ASUCI makes (some) money. It’s a win-win! Except it’s not. It’s not, because included in that list of so-called amusement parks are multiple businesses that profit from the exploitation of animals, the most infamous of these being SeaWorld.

You may be aware that SeaWorld isn’t doing so hot right now. The release of the documentary “Blackfish” in 2013 revealed some upsetting truths about the effects of captivity on orcas, including, but not limited to: significantly shortened life spans, illness and injury, stress and trauma due to the separation of mother whales and their calves, listlessness and depression and the ever-so-pitiable floppy dorsal fins. “Blackfish” is not a perfect film but the conversations sparked about the ethics of using animals for human entertainment (while turning a hefty profit) are valuable and much-needed. SeaWorld’s shady practices were an issue long before “Blackfish’s” release; the film simply shed light on them, and that was enough to command the public’s attention — and, rightfully, their outrage. As the world has awoken to the grim reality of captive orcas, SeaWorld’s attendance has dropped drastically and its stocks are plummeting. Businesses have taken note of this and have been rushing to cut ties with the disgraced park. United Airlines, Hyundai, the Miami Dolphins and several others no longer want anything to do with SeaWorld. Several universities have taken a stand against SeaWorld as well, including our (sort of) neighbors at CSU Long Beach. Back in fall 2014, student activists began pressuring their student government to take an ethical stance against SeaWorld by discontinuing sales of their tickets on campus. Just weeks after this campaign started, CSULB’S ASI announced that ticket sales had ended after paying a nominal fee of $2,000 for backing out of their contract with SeaWorld prematurely.

Our own ASUCI began working on a similar plan the summer before CSULB’s successful campaign, citing a loss of profits for their desire to end their partnership with SeaWorld. I bet you didn’t know this; I sure as hell didn’t. How could I have even guessed that when, at the beginning of winter quarter, I could still walk into the ASUCI office and see SeaWorld pamphlets, a SeaWorld calendar and of course, their name on the list of amusement parks offering discounted tickets through UCI. It wasn’t until after I’d started an online petition asking ASUCI to stop selling SeaWorld tickets that I was informed that they had been “working” on this issue.

I believed the member of ASUCI who disclosed this information to me because at that point, I didn’t have any reason not to. I trusted my student government to be honest, transparent and genuinely invested in their constituents’ concerns. However, my interactions with ASUCI since then have suggested otherwise. When I asked for follow-up regarding ASUCI’s progress on passing this initiative (naively hoping that it’s even made it as far as the legislative council’s desks), I was met with silence. When I requested to meet with our ASUCI President to discuss this issue: silence. ASUCI’s Associate Executive Director. silence. It was the end of winter quarter by then. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, figured the flag debacle was a more pressing issue at the time. Yet, even now, I struggle to secure any face-time with my supposed representatives. Emails have been exchanged, I’ve been informed that the issue is “important” to ASUCI, I’ve been reassured that students’ concerns are legitimate, and yet I struggle.

Whether you’re a passionate animal rights activist, a supporter of SeaWorld or someone who literally could not give a shit about these issues if you tried to, ASUCI’s inaction should concern you. It should concern you that, when CSULB students (who pay far less than UC students do) spoke out against this same issue, their student government took effective action in less than a quarter, while ASUCI has allowed this same issue on our campus go unaddressed since last summer. It should concern you that this issue — or that any issue brought up to/by ASUCI — could sit in a folder (or wherever undiscussed topics are left to be forgotten in the ASUCI office) for nearly a year without being acted upon. This is student government at its least effective and I’m reminded of that every time I step into the ASUCI office.

 

Cristina Tangreti is a fourth-year  comparative literature major. She can be reached at ctangret@uci.edu.