"They suck... Stop them before they bungle again," proclaims a full-page advertisement in the Salient which attacks the Undergraduate Council. The ad even provides a cut-out postcard which can be sent personally to Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III to request full reimbursement of one's contribution to the council.
Courageously enough, the organization which placed the ad calls itself the "Committee for Obliterating Government, Needless."
Although this noble sentiment is fundamentally well-grounded, the strategy is extremely inefficient. After all, the council has inertia on its side. The true solution to the waste of money should be clear: permanent dissolution of the entire council. And, to be democratic about the whole affair, let's put it to a vote.
The council deserves its notorious reputation for scandals and incompetence. Most student governments get criticized for doing nothing. Unfortunately, we get the student government which does too much.
Failure after failure translate into the disgraceful waste of students' tuition money. Remember Casino Night? Or any of the myriad of hopeless concerts with talent imported from the Real World? These judiciously-organized events were all brought to you by the venerable council--and each event lost thousands of dollars of tuition money. If history is any guide, we can look forward to the waste of another large chunk of the $150,000 which the council controls this year.
In addition to general financial incompetence and mismanagement, the Council has generated a plethora of scandals. Remember Maya Prabhu who rigged an election last year? And already this year the Council has experienced a scandal of sorts as the election for the Vice-Presidency has fallen into dispute. After expressly voting to suspend the by-laws in order to include absentee ballots in the election, these ballots were arbitrarily nullified in the run-off election. And these ballots made the difference in the final tally. Weeks after the issue was raised by a vote teller, the Council finally voted--they voted to do nothing at all. It is a sad commentary when the council cannot even handle elections properly--something they should know a bit about.
Out of the tangled affair, a simple question comes to mind. Why were there any absentee ballots at all? Who was absent? After all, this meeting was designed to determine the leaders of the council. What could be more important for a council member? It would seem that any member too busy or too lazy to attend a meeting of such consequence for the student government does not really deserve to be a student representative.
When we per-petually question the actions of individual members of the council, we must eventually call into question the entire student government. After consistent mismanagement of tuition money and scandal after scandal, it's clear that students' interests are not being served. Apparently, only the members themselves benefit, as they acquire neat little titles to add to their stellar resumes.
Of course, one might object that a student government is necessary for the voices of students to be represented to the administration. Perhaps this concern would be valid if representation really were the essence of this government.
Yet overwhelming majorities do not elect students to the council. Perennially, only about twenty percent of undergraduates bother to vote in council elections. So, the winners of the election only need a few votes to win.
And in Lowell House this year even these few votes were unnecessary as only five candidates were on the ballot. Five candidates for five places. Hmmm. Write-in candidates? Well, outgoing council Chair Michael P. Beys '94 decreed all write-in candidates illegitimate. So much for democracy. Some of us used to laugh at the Soviet Union for just such farces.
Clearly, the council does not merit its claim to legitimacy. The interests of the majority of students are not being represented, but rather subverted. Unfortunately, the administration would not dare to summarily dismiss the council. But we should be able to. I believe that a vote is in order.