Anybody who has had the chance to walk around the HUB lately will have undoubtedly noticed the campaign signs for ASUCR elections. The many signs tout the candidates for ASUCR, representing their respective parties with equally clever names like [OUR]Voice and PAC: Pride, Action, Change. They now compete against [YOU]CR for the first time in a few years after the party had been banned.
Students who have been at UCR long enough will know that [YOU]CR was the dominant party from the 2011 to 2013 school years. This raises the question as to why the previously incumbent party had been banned in the first place. The ban was born out of the confusion the name had the potential to conjure, as it was read and phonetically pronounced the same way that UCR would be, opening the door to implications that the school endorsed the particular party.
We must understand what it means to the UCR student populace now that it is allowed to run in the elections once more.
[YOU]CR is allowed to exist once more on the caveat that it be pronounced as Y-O-U-C-R, instead of as the phonetic reading of the written name. However, this mandate is unenforceable at best and completely pointless in reality. The name of the party itself has not changed, nor has the written style, both of which will more than likely still result in anyone reading the campaign posters as “U-C-R,” unless they are already aware of the mandate and can change the way they were taught to read phonemes.
The name is an undeniably clever bit of wordplay, but this precedent shows that the student elections are allowed to be run on unrealistic technicalities, only throwing a shadow of doubt over the trustworthiness of those we elect as our representatives. Rescinding this ban is not a problem in and of itself however, but representative of a greater number of problems within the body of the student government, pointing back to even older questionable practices for which ASUCR has come under scrutiny.
With the recent reinstatement of the party, ASUCR and the elections committee have shown blase concerning past and current affairs of student government that the students of UCR should not stand for. Election campaigns of the past have been retread time and again, but always bear repeating as a refresher to the student who may be unaware.
The very reason that [YOU]CR exists again is that the previous [YOUR]SIDE party was broken up due to alleged discriminatory practices. Previous years have also exhibited questionable acts. One [YOU]CR member participated in a vote to determine whether fellow party members could participate in the elections to allow participation in the elections, laptopping (or the act of pressuring students to vote on the spot by presenting them with a laptop) became a problem for students at the University Village and ASUCR judicial appointments were made without the notification of the organization’s executive cabinet.
It is with the lattermost point especially that the issue of “transparency” within ASUCR can be viewed as problematic. While much of the campaign cycle revolves around the issue, as everybody claims that keeping students in the loop will be the new priority of UCR’s student government, the old guard takes to their keyboards to explain why such open conversation between the student body and ASUCR is impossible. One need look no further than President Nafi Karim’s statement that he does “not believe that transparency is the Holy Grail answer to all situations.” It is this about-face mentality change from the election cycle to the execution of office that students need to make themselves aware of.
Accountability for student government must not fall entirely upon the entity itself though, but must come from the studied and discerning eye of the people responsible for electing it. Any student who is participating in this year’s election should understand the function of ASUCR, then also knowing the power and money for which it is relied upon to wield.
The power of ASUCR comes from our own student fees, which give them an annual $12.50 per person which they are allowed to allocate. While this money has been misused in the past with senators leaving a conference early which the student body had paid for them to attend, there is also substantial potential for good in these funds.
The HUB is one of the primary beneficiaries of ASUCR expenditure of funds, as they are the entity responsible for the solar benches that students can often be seen using to charge their laptops while getting out of the midday sun. Likewise, many students at UCR recently benefitted from President Karim’s R’Gear initiative, giving a good proportion of the campus a gratis ability to show school spirit. However, R’Gear also acts as a perfect example of the lack of transparency within ASUCR, as the $51,601.86 pricetag for the project went undisclosed for prolonged period of time.
ASUCR is not an institution that is inherently flawed; however, many of the practices and policies adopted in recent years have given way to a perception that the organization is secretive and only serves a vague purpose on campus. If students become better informed as to the purpose of the fees they pay and what they become, and ASUCR makes a better effort to fulfill the constant promise of transparency, then much of the questionability that arises around the time of elections will surely be allayed.