Political intrigue pervades UCSD climate

    SAAC. MEChA. ASUCSD. UCAB. To the uninitiated, UC San Diego can seem a jungle of obscure abbreviations. Only the activist few know of the political intrigue that accompanies these assortments of letters. In a university much maligned for its general lack of school spirit, the best way to feel a sense of attachment is to know UCSD inside and out, accepting the good along with the bad.

    Student Affirmative Action Committee (SAAC): an umbrella group consisting of a half dozen student-run cultural organizations. During much of the year, itís an innocuous group of students who want nothing more than to socialize with other students of their respective cultures. But come election season, SAAC transforms into a political machine, rivaling the juggernaut of New Yorkís Boss Tweed in the mid-19th century.

    For the past two years, SAAC has given its unwavering endorsement to Students First!, a slate of candidates comprised in large part of the leaders of SAAC cultural groups. The leaders use their positions to deliver the votes of their respective groups to the slate as a whole, often ensuring victory for Students First! candidates. SAACís influence in getting out the vote dwindled this past year, as many Students First! candidates running unopposed were seemingly assured victory.

    Even with the hotly contested student government presidency, the SAAC-backed candidate won a plurality by a mere 50 votes out of the couple thousand cast. Join a SAAC club if you like free food and meeting people, but donít get into a leadership position unless youíre prepared to deal with untold amounts of political shenanigans.

    The Associated Students of the University of California ‚ San Diego (ASUCSD): Often referred to as the A.S. Council, or simply ìA.S.,î ASUCSD is the most popular way to waste time and spend other peopleís money among overly ambitious political science majors. The council spends much time and money pretending to be important, last year spending thousands of dollars on trips across the country to ìnetworkî with other schoolsí pretend politicians.

    While ASUCSD is technically an advisory body, with the chancellor holding veto power over how money is spent, theyíre rarely bothered by administration interference. This yearís $1.3 million A.S. budget includes over $30,000 in contributions to state and national political lobbying groups and over $20,000 on travel expenses for A.S. Council members. They pay themselves about $60,000 a year in salaries for doing the peopleís work, and the four executive officers enjoy free parking permits.

    The A.S. is usually dominated by partisan politics, embodied at UCSD as student political parties like the Students First! machine. This year marks the first in a while where independent candidates and minor parties managed to wrest control of the council from the well-funded established parties. The entire Students First! machine was disqualified for illegal campaigning in last yearís election, leaving to the second-place presidential candidate and his handful of senators the daunting task of appointing half the council. With the demise of travel-happy Students First!, it was shaping up to be a year free from extraneous student-funded vacations, until failed presidential candidate and Students First! figurehead Kevin Hsu was appointed ìNational Affairs Directorî last spring. Now we can look forward to paying for a yearís worth of trips to D.C., but at least Hsu is happy.

    The Peopleís Parking Party (PPP): Independent student political party in last yearís election, running a single issue campaign. While none of the PPP candidates won their positions outright, the wholesale disqualification of Students First! allowed Eric Webster, a man running with no relevant A.S. experience, to slip in as Vice President Finance. Webster was a quick study, and has learned the ins and outs of the position with little trouble. Though the PPPís future electoral prospects are dim, itís important to note Websterís success. When all is said and done, this is still only student government, and Webster proves that experience is not a prerequisite for competence.

    Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA): Often misspelled, always mispronounced, MEChAís most recent claim to fame is Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamanteís membership in the 1970s. MEChAís stated political views border on racist ó its founding documents repeatedly slam the ìAnglo societyî and denounce the ìgringo invadersî of the ìbronze continentî ó although the organizationís UCSD incarnation rarely lives up to the hype.

    In 2002, UCSDís MEChA filed charges through the UCSD judicial system against the KOALA, a satirical newspaper, for ìdisruptingî an open meeting by taking photographs of a MEChA leader. After national media coverage favoring the KOALA, MEChA lost its case and faded back into relative obscurity. But like most SAAC orgs, MEChA is primarily a culture-based social group. Itíll occasionally stir up controversy, but the most virulent anti-ìgringoî propaganda comes not from MEChA, but from the radical newspaper VOZ FRONTERIZA.

    VOZ FRONTERIZA, or VOZ: A militant Hispanic student-run newspaper that advocates the reacquisition of the American Southwest by Mexico in a full-page ad on the back of every issue. It gained limited notoriety in 1995 when it celebrated the death of a border patrol employee, explaining, ìhe deserved to dieî and ìall the Migra pigs should be killed.î A general waste of student funds, the paper spends most of its pages reprinting articles by non-student authors. Almost every article is printed twice ó once in English and once in Spanish ó consuming even more of our money.

    The VOZ is worth reading for its humor value, which often rivals that of the KOALA. Itís also somewhat useful if youíre just learning Spanish and want to analyze the differences between the English and Spanish words for ìcapitalist butcher-pigsî or ìtyrannical prison-industrial machinations of oppression.î

    The University Centers Advisory Board (UCAB): A panel of students primarily appointed by their respective college councils to advise Vice Chancellor Joe Watson in the operation of the University Centers. This body serves in a mere ìadvisoryî capacity, as evidenced by the ìAî in UCAB. Years ago, it was known as the University Centers Board and had absolute control over the University Centers ó until they made a decision with which the administration disagreed, at which point the board was dissolved and UCAB was formed.

    Proud UCAB members will tell you now that the students are really in control and theyíve never been overridden by an administrator. Theyíd find out quickly how wrong they are if they ever tried to fire an ìadultî staff member, like University Centers director Gary Radcliffe. But even in their advisory capacity, the members of UCAB that haven’t been elected hold more power than all other UCSD student groups, sitting on over $2 million in its annual budget and given the authority to allocate precious space in the Price Center and Student Center. They are also responsible for bringing in the horridly overpriced Panda Express, which is supposed to sell orange chicken by the ounce but refuses to do so.

    There are dozens of other alphabet soup organizations that will, in some way, affect your lives here. Of those mentioned, there is even more intrigue, controversy, and nasty politicking than explained herein. Most student organizations are spending at least some portion of the mandatory fees you pay each quarter, so itís in your own best interest to pay attention to what theyíre doing ó lest you find your money being spent on sending cocky political science majors on trips to D.C.

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