Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Perception of Student Government

As tradition would have it, I always give my Q&A guests a week at the top of the blog in addition to promoting their interview, however, there are times (like when I picked up last Wednesday's Alligator) that the temptation to speak out has arisen. There are two articles in this edition that truly moved me.

The first involved Sen. Jordan Loh's Cingular services bill. I thought Sen. Lindsey Johns' understanding of everyday students' concerns was commendable (Sen. Baker's comment for this article makes me wonder if he's still a GDI?); however, I thought the choice of words of the former Gator Party leader, Sen. J. Clayton Brett were indicative of the overly-bureaucratic SG that the vast majority of the student body has grown to despise. The holier-than-thou attitude that makes a distinction between matters that affect the average student and matters that affect the minority-elite echelon of the student body (e.g. SG). SG is the Student Body Mr. Brett, in fact, any problem that affects the STUDENTS should be a problem that STUDENT GOVERNMENT ADDRESSES.

Read The Article Here: H-E-R-E

My Opinion & Yours
Column Discussed: Click Here

First and foremost I want to commend Dan Burroughs for writing an excellent column, even if I disagree with its fundamental cornerstone. Now I can't very well challendge Mr. Burrough's assertion that members of SG feel wrongly-accused when bashed by the Alligator...not after Sen. Brett's blunder-of-the-semester foot-in-the-mouth published comment, however, I would like to challenge Mr. Burroughs on this quote: "all student governments are simply ways to better relationships between students and administrations, while taking a load off administration's shoulders."

Let me expand. Student politics are vague, platforms are generally recycled, mildly altered, but all-in-all, you will never get concrete answers on political ideology insofar as SG parties or mainstream SG candidates go. One huge question mark has always been drawn over the political ideology (or lack thereof) of the Alligator as a newspaper.

In U.S. politics you have papers with different ideologies. If on the NY subway on a Monday morning...Ryan Nelson would probably read the Daily News meanwhle Tommy Jardon would probably read The NY Post. TV stations have set political directions too. I would probably watch CNN, Chris Carmody would probably watch Fox. Some more examples: James Argento would probably prefer the Washington Post to the Washington Times, etc, etc, etc. While liberal papers won't worship liberals and trash conservatives, you can at least catch the bias in the writing...but where does the Alligator stand?

Yes....we all know the Alligator loves IFC/PC Greeks about as much as Charlie Grapski loves Florida Blue Key, but aside from that, what do we really know about this independently owned newspaper that's treated like royalty on the UF campus? They seem to love to trash Student Government, they usually take sides in the elections but never really seem to believe in any elected officials, regardless if they endorsed them or all seems destined to failure and this quote from Dan Burroughs, out of everything I ever read and/or written, I believe, best surmises the true slant, the true ideology, the true bare-bones, underlying, traditional view of the Independent Florida Alligator. what's the problem

Ok, aside from the fact that 'SG budgets $12 million in student blah blah blah', yeah aside from that giant fact and more importantly, Student Government at UF is elected by the students with absolutely no input from the administration and except for Glenda & Sandy, there are no appointments made to student government or its offices by members of the University administration. Furthermore it should be recognized that Student Government is a fully-autonomous governing body and is not either subservient or under the jurisdiction of any faculty and/or administrative body in the University.

Next, it is the mission of the Office of the University Ombudsman (Tommy Howard) 'to better relationships between students and faculty - and - students and the administration, not merely to hear cases involving grievances. It is not. the role of Student Government to act as a mediator between students and the administration, with only few exceptions such as the Student Advocacy Cabinet, the Student Conduct Committee, and a very few others that it could be argued serve in any sort of mediation capacity.

Student Government is the face of the Student Body, it is the political vehicle whereby student's concerns are addressed, so naturally it's rather depressing to read comments such as those made by Gator Party Sen. J. Clayton Brett categorizing problems that affect the general student body as not necessarily affecting Student Government. The fact is, Student Government belongs to the Student Body and Mr. Burroughs column fails to do SG justice, but in my opinion, best-represents the sentiments and the political-bias that his publication has been trying to push for years here at UF.

Good column, but I don't agree with it. Your Opinions?


Anonymous said...

wow, really well thought out. Christian: A+

Anonymous said...

In Senator Brett's defense, that quote was taken way out of context. Brett's argument was intelligent and well researched. The "nuisance" quote was not meant to imply that SG doesnt care about the concerns of the fact, he empathized with the situation. However Brett, like the majority of the senate, felt that the resolution was too narrow in scope to merit passing.

If you are honestly still so interested in UF politics, perhaps you should have attended the forum with Machen, and stuck around for senate afterwards. Then, maybe wouldnt be so quick to pass judgement, or you would at least be informed enough to only judge when you have the whole story.

Christian Duque said...

Re-read this part:

"Sen. Jordan Loh, who wrote the resolution, said one of the biggest complaints he heard from students while campaigning for office was poor reception and dropped calls by Cingular. He also told senators there were numerous groups on "decrying Cingular."

*My thoughts*

Sen. Loh (whom I'd love to meet) should be applauded! He wrote a bill based on concerns he heard on the campaign trail, despite not being a FLASHY issue it was a valid CONCERN of the student body, and he further mentions discontent by citing the facebook groups.

This isn't about FBK & GDI's. This is about applauding fine elected officials like Loh & Johns and calling out bureucrats (whom ironoically come from opposing parties) to take some heat for their comments.

Senators always make mention of their constituents' best interest (whether they genuinely care or not), but I don't believe (and definitely did not read) Senators Brett or Baker speak about their constituents in any capacity when addressing Sen. Loh's resolution.

What I did read, was both of them state their opinions and use their opinions as rubber-stamps of what the students wanted, as has often been the case with delusional student senators whom believe because they got the most votes on a single given day that they somehow have the divine right to use the their constituents' name in whatever fashion they see fit, depending on what side of the bed they woke up on that morning and THAT- whether you're tapped into FBK or so GDI that the only color of clothes you wear is green -- makes you a BUREAUCRAT. And here at TR "all bureucrats are treated equally."

Bravo Senators Loh & Johns.

So you claim they were taken out of context? I don't care, they were made at some point. The Alligator may have taken comments out of context, but I highly doubt they FABRICATED them in some twisted underground plot to up Loh & Johns and crap on Brett & Baker.

Anonymous said...

Correction: Johns & Loh are both on-campus Swamp senators.
From what I understand, this bill additionally didn't pass because it was poorly written. I applaud Sen. Loh, a new senator, for attempting to do what students actually need. Its too bad that Swamp can't teach its senators how to write bills.

Gavin Baker said...

Yeah man, didn't you hear? I rushed FIJI.

Christian Duque said...

I wasn't aware they were both Swamp senators, but once again, this isn't partisan, it's about giving credit where credit is due and disapproval where need be.

One thing that should be very clear about TR is this: I am ever grateful to those that do Q&A with me and that support this blog in whatever way they can, but in the end when I write the nitty-gritty, everyone starts out with a clean slate, as equals. If you smear your slate then you're in for it; if you do right by the students you could be the biggest Key, with AePi or ATO on your shirt, you could be more republican than G. Gordon Litty, Rush Limbaugh, & Oliver North put together and you'll get S-I-C_K (massive) props on this blog. That's just how I choose to do it.

It's just not fair to attack the majority and turn a blind-eye or a deaf-ear when members of the minority drop the ball. I'm not like that. My blog's not like that. Senator Loh thought with the students in mind, Sen. Johns thought with the students in mind, Senators Brett & Baker thought with themselves in mind.

Sen. Baker did Q&A and certainly basked in my praises for months on end, having no issue with writing pages-long replies to my when put on the spot, he replies with a one-line response, that I believe is meant to insult me.

If you he did rush FIJI I think that's wonderful, but if not, that organization has nothing to do with SG or anything on my blog and is in fact struggling to return to campus.

Gavin Baker said...

Christian, if you're interested in an explanation, I'm glad to give it. But it seems a lot more like you wanted to use an Alligator article to make a point, and facts be damned -- because when you know what happened beyond the soundbites in the media, you may not agree with those who opposed the bill, but I don't think you'll be able to paint us with the same brush you used here.

I don't think the Alligator misrepresented what happened, but for the particular criticism here, some context is necessary.

And I suppose you might say, "Well, most students will never know what happened other than what was in the Alligator." You can point to your title and say, "See, I'm talking about the 'perception' of what SG does." If so: Well, that's crap. You could take any Alligator article and say, "Look, this is reinforcing students' perception of SG." It doesn't prove anything.

I echo the sentiments of anon 1:45. (Sorry Nelson.)

Christian Duque said...

In four paragraphs you made good points, albeit vague ones, and none that provided factual support towards any rebuttal to either what the Alligator printed or I perceived.

Yes, the Alligator may have taken you out of context, but you've failed to highlight in what context your comments were actually made.

Initially you made a sarcastic one-line comment that I suspect was the product of panic & frustration -- that's undertandable as I normally don't chastize GDI's, however, the second response doesn't say much more on the subject.

Look, I don't expect you to be Jesus Christ in chambers. You're a good senator, Mr. Brett is another good senator, BUT, in regards to this article and the "fierce fighting" the Alligator reported on, Senators Loh & Johns acted far better in my opinion than you & Sen. Brett did.

Christian Duque said...

Also...any thoughts on the Dan Burroughs piece?

Gavin Baker said...

Some of us think that it's important to spend SG's political capital wisely. More particularly, we think that resolutions should be reserved for formalities (commemorating a student who passed away, recognizing an important UF-related event) and for expressing the will of the student body on issues that affect the vast majority (i.e. nearly all) students.

Every senator has the right to bring forward resolutions to represent their constituents, but the goal of the Senate as a body is to represent the student body as a whole -- and the student body as a whole doesn't have Cingular.

As for this resolution affecting students but not SGers: One thing that didn't get printed is the fact that two senators spoke con on the resolution because they have Cingular and have dealt with the issue on their own. Another fact not printed is that SG's own BlackBerries use Cingular. Clearly this isn't a case of looking after #1 -- it's a question of appropriateness and legislative philosophy, i.e. exactly the kind of stuff we ought to be talking about in Senate.

By the way, it's not like SG's going to do nothing. I'm going to bring a petition to Senate this week that concerned senators can sign -- something that doesn't claim to speak for the entire student body, but nevertheless a way to put our concerns on paper on behalf of our constituents who are affected. I've also been emailing with the resolution's supporters and Vice President Armand about how we could use the resources of the cabinet to help students who are stuck with Cingular know what their options are in the situation.

In short, the senators who brought the resolution did a good thing in raising the issue, but it wasn't really appropriate to pass. That doesn't mean we'll do nothing, though.

What the hell any of these has to do with my being a "GDI" or not is beyond me.

Chris Carmody said...

Clarification: I watch Robin & Company on CNN Headline News and then go to Sayfie Review to get the best political articles in the state. It is a great way to start off your morning. You should try it.

Christian Duque said...

Well for starters, a GDI doesn't need the vast MAJORITY of the student body to be affected before he/she acts (to cite your own words). That's like not doing anything until the vast majority of the population is screwed...if it's a problem for some, it should be a problem for all, if not now, then when?

I really thank Sen. Baker for responding to my post, however, I think the Unite Senator should quite while he's ahead. I could have sworn I read a portion of his entry that suggested there was a right and wrong for senate insofar as what kind of a resolution should be presented to the body. I'm sure my eyes are playing tricks on me.

The power of s senate resolution outside rm. 284 and outside the Union is weak-at-best, shooting down the resolution and trying to remedy the situation by offering a clipboard with a hand-written petition is laughable.

Not only that....but I have seen dozens of poorly-written resolutions that have passed Judiciary and have a strong sentiment that have been basically reformatted through the friendly and formal amendment process in chambers. When you vote "no" on a bill you are shooting it down.

If you agreed with the bill you could have amended it and/or you could have made it more suitable to pass, but this wasn't the case it seems.

Gavin Baker said...

If I agreed with the resolution, I'd have voted for it. I didn't think the issue was appropriate for a resolution intended to represent the entire student body.

An issue doesn't have to affect the vast majority of the student body before SG acts -- but it does have to affect the vast majority of the student body to warrant a resolution.

Those little pieces of paper have had an impact before, and can continue to do so, depending how we choose to use them.

And as it happens, the Senate meetings in room 282.

What a waste of time. I spend my time trying to explain an issue to someone who's not my constituent -- who's not even a student -- who criticized me based off a news article without any additional information, let alone having actually been there. The reward for this? More criticism. Way to advance public discourse, Christian.