Council picks wrong man for job

    Just when you think the A.S. Council couldn’t possibly get any worse, it sinks to depths you didn’t even think existed. All year long, it has ignored the serious problems facing UCSD students and concentrated instead on drafting powerless resolutions that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

    The epicenter of the council’s worst negligence, however, lies in the office of Academic Affairs. The students have been let down by the former commissioner of that office, and rather than taking the opportunity to ramify the situation with an able replacement, it is clear that the council is up to its old political games once again, since a clearly underqualified applicant has received the job.

    Earlier in the year, students were taken completely by surprise when the Committee on Educational Policy proposed amendments to the academic integrity policy, which many felt would put students accused of academic dishonesty at a severe disadvantage. Fortunately, a number of council representatives pleaded their case to the Academic Senate, and the amendments were voted down.

    Despite the satisfactory conclusion, the problem is the fact that the student council was unaware of these changes until they were ready to be voted on by the Academic Senate because the former commissioner of Academic Affairs, Halle Beitollahi, simply did not know about them. Although her job was to attend the meetings to advocate on behalf of the students and report back to the council, it is clear that faculty was free to write whatever changes it wanted without objections from the students it would affect. Moreover, she did not participate in the student protest of the proposals.

    Beitollahi recently resigned, which is good because she clearly did not have the time or motivation to successfully manage her position. Moreover, some council insiders, myself included, were happy because highly qualified applicants were hunting for the position.

    Lance Feller has served as co-chair of the Revelle Programming Board and spent two years as the assistant to the commissioner of Academic Affairs. He’s a bright person who knows every last detail of the position better than any other student on this campus.

    Garo Bournoutian is the chair of the University Centers Expansion Task Force, along with several other appointments on both Associated Students and the Revelle College Council. He’s an intelligent, trustworthy person who is very familiar with the workings of Academic Affairs.

    Moreover, Feller and Bournoutian both knew the CEP was preparing to amend the academic dishonesty policy since last spring, even though the commissioner of Academic Affairs was apparently unaware of the development. Yet neither was chosen for the position.

    Instead, former Student Affirmative Action Committee chair and MEChA officer Ernesto Martinez was awarded the position, despite having no experience in the office. I found this extremely shocking because of how ridiculously qualified Feller and Bournoutian are for the position.

    In all fairness, a look at Martinez’s resume does reveal that he’s not a dummy; the fact that he will likely graduate with honors is commendable by all standards. However, in response to his lampooning last year at the hands of the Koala, he wrote to Director of Student Policies and Judicial Affairs Nicholas Aguilar, “”As a person of color on campus, it is difficult to learn.”” Anyone who focuses more on his adversities than his accomplishments forever casts himself as the victim rather than the victor, and I simply cannot respect that kind of self-deprecative mindset, especially from an official meant to represent student interests. It is especially sad because Martinez appears to have accomplished quite a bit during his time at UCSD.

    Particularly surprising, however, was the following: “”It has crossed my mind several times to physically fight back so this can stop … If no positive support is received from UCSD administration (such as putting a stop to the Koala), then we as students of color will have to retaliate [and the] campus environment will be hostile the rest of the year.”” His anger is understandable, but he has violated any number of university regulations by what appears to be threatening violence if his demands were not met. This clearly intimidated the university because the Koala was prosecuted for allegedly photographing Martinez during a public proceeding — also known as the practice of free speech — and proponents of such censorship should not hold an A.S. office.

    Based upon this and the grammatically incorrect 300-word letter he sent to the Koala, it can be inferred that Martinez tends to allow his emotions to get the better of him and do something unadvisable. The students do need someone who will fight for student rights — and Martinez would certainly fight hard — but there is undoubtedly a necessary level of diplomacy involved, and if the Academic Senate attempts to play hardball, we as students will only lose if we are represented by someone whose emotions might overshadow his judgment.

    When asked why Martinez was selected, A.S. President Jenn Brown said, “”Ernesto was the only candidate who had a plan to fill empty committees and create a cohesive staff.””

    The other applicants, however, disagree.

    “”It’s absolutely false,”” Feller said. “”I know for fact that Garo and I both had plans to fill those committees; that was one of our key concerns for quite a while.””

    Feller said he told Brown that his plan would be “”to find out who applied to the office last summer, because Halle didn’t appoint everybody that applied. The second half of that is to reopen the application period for a week. The advertising would mainly come through the Guardian and through A.S. posters, banners, student councils and RAs who can tell their residents.””

    Bournoutian was equally appalled by Brown’s statement. He said his plan was to “”generate a lot more publicity, advertise on shuttle marquees, place posters all over campus and lobby the college councils, because a lot of freshmen want to get involved, but there are no available positions at the time.””

    Moreover, Bournoutian was highly skeptical of the selection process: “”I was interviewed by only two people on A.S., which isn’t exactly a representative cross-section to be giving a recommendation on candidates.””

    What, then, can we infer about the selection process? Could it be that Brown and the rest of the council — very liberal and staunchly pro-affirmative action, which in and of itself is fine — made this appointment as a political move intended to reward a like-minded individual for his years of activism, and to remind the council’s SAAC and MEChA constituents whom to vote for in the April elections?

    This is yet another example of the cronyism which has become far too familiar on this year’s A.S. Council. These political games only hurt the students, especially after we have recently witnessed the consequences of negligence in the Academic Affairs office. Moreover, it doesn’t matter whether the council is full of liberals appointing a former SAAC chair or a bunch of conservatives appointing a former College Republicans social coordinator; the council should be working to improve the students’ lives, and this latest circus represents its newest failure. Hopefully, the voters will remember this come April.

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