Student government gone bad

    Perhaps once or twice during the entirety of the school year at UCSD, some students actually get off their collective asses and decide to organize a massive event for the benefit of their fellow students. “Fusion,” the gargantuan hip-hop dance competition run by student groups MASA and 220, is a perfect example of what happens when this goes right. The multitude of A.S.-sponsored concerts and dances, including the abysmally attended and altogether useless College Night at the Pub, pretty much represent the other side of things. The three quarterly music festivals, including the drunken orgy of Sun God, are a notable exception, but seeing as most of their annual budget goes to make these concerts, the A.S. Council had better damn well make sure these festivals are a success.

    The DJs and Vinylphiles Club on campus is actively trying to change this trend. It doesn’t have nearly as many resources as the A.S. Council or MASA/220 to put on its own event, but the club did its best to help the A.S. all-campus spring dance on April 2 avoid the Curse of Failing A.S. Events. In a landmark partnership, the DVC helped Associated Students promote the event and used the opportunity to set up a spectacular show with five DJs (all UCSD alumni), representing five major genres of electronic music.

    Everything seemed to be going fine until the day of the event. Sure, there was the small matter that Associated Students would not pay these independent DJs for their services, but the club said it was OK with paying for these DJs (some travelling all the way from Los Angeles) to come and do the event, as long as Associated Students would feature the DVC in advertising. Seemed fair enough, and both had a nice verbal agreement.

    A word of the wise to any student organization at UCSD: Never, ever, ever, make an agreement with the A.S. Council without getting it in writing. Why? Because the A.S. Council went back on its agreement, leaving the DVC out of the one huge advertisement that mattered, the cloth Price Center banners. You’d think with all of the effort the A.S. Council goes to with silly Price Center banners to get members elected, it would realize that these publicity devices might also be important to a student organization bending over backwards to make sure an A.S. Council event doesn’t fall prey to the Curse of Failing A.S. Events.

    But these gripes are puny compared to the day of the event itself. In another verbal agreement gone awry, the A.S. Council decided to move the hip-hop half of the dance out of the Price Center courtyard and inside Price Center Ballroom (where the DVC DJs were supposed to be) because of a “60-percent chance of rain.” So, after helping out with the event for free, the DVC was completely kicked out, with no chance of compromise.

    Even the Price Center tech crew wanted to split the ballroom up and give the DVC a smaller room so that UCSD students still could have a choice of music, but the A.S. Council was unrepentant. According to the council, another stage would cut the crowd capacity by 250 people and they might have to turn people away. So, based on a chance of rain (it didn’t rain), and the chance that a few more people would be turned away (after forcing an event with estimated 4,000 attendance into a tiny ballroom with a capacity of 1,000), the A.S. Council destroyed the only decent thing it had going for it at yet another failed event. And with all this talk of “splitting up the ballroom” and “reduced capacity,” none of the people in charge thought to share the main stage to at least give the DVC some token time for its efforts as a gesture of goodwill.

    But, apart from these gripes with the way Associated Students runs its events, there is a bigger problem here, and a greater issue at stake. The fundamental purpose of Associated Students is to take UCSD students’ money and spend it to positively impact UCSD students. Yet, at least for the last couple of years, it seems that the purpose of Associated Students has been to take UCSD students’ money and spend it on whatever the A.S. Council would like to do. This presents a slight problem if Associated Students is supposed to represent the UCSD student body.

    Most of this trouble comes from the fact that most UCSD students couldn’t care less about all-campus dances or anything else that the A.S. Council puts on, and ignore the A.S. Council completely, so there’s quite a bit of guesswork involved in finding out what students would like. To its merit, the A.S. Council has done a reasonable job in gauging student interest. However, the council screwed up royally with the all-campus dance. What better way to represent the interest of a wide variety of students than to turn away a group of students and alumni who were trying to make your own event appeal to a larger group?

    UCSD students like alternative music. The large groups of people at KSDT and the DVC are proof of that. The A.S. Council, on the other hand, doesn’t know a thing about DJs, as evidenced by the spectacular failure of its own DJs at College Night. Furthermore, the A.S. Council is unable to see past its own beliefs, so the DVC had to take action. Or, in the words of event coordinator Michael Dawson at an A.S. Council meeting: “I had to make a decision and that decision was to play top 40 stuff in the ballroom. So, the DVC has filed a Judicial Board case against me.”

    That Judicial Board case was a textbook example of why, again, all organizations should get their agreements in writing, or better yet, avoid the A.S. Council altogether. The DVC, understandably irked that it was completely thrown out of its own event and trying to get little more than a formal apology (in the form of a Guardian advertisement), had the book thrown at them by A.S. Commissioner of Student Advocacy Jeff Boyd. You read that right. UCSD’s official student advocate was defending the A.S. Council and attacking its own constituency, reducing the DVC members to little more than blubbering balls of misery.

    With all respect to Boyd’s considerable skills as a litigator, it was a completely inappropriate way to treat a student organization whose only crime was to seek formal recognition for being kicked out of its own event. During the closing statements, when Boyd’s litigious yelling had calmed down, both groups expressed interest in working things out amiably and continuing DVC’s longstanding tradition of friendly cooperation with the A.S. Council. So, why did Boyd feel the need to militantly destroy the DVC?

    A far more interesting question is: Why, when he was being so arduously defended, did Dawson make an even poorer showing than the DVC, readily admitting that he was making poor and uninformed decisions with regards to the planning of the dance because he was unable to keep the event under control?

    Despite these criticisms, Dawson should be congratulated for his success at the all-campus dance, and his work toward discouraging student involvement in student-funded events. After all, the fewer people who show up, and the fewer independent groups involved, the easier it is to manage events like this.

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