Stalled A.S. Council in Dire Need of Participatory Jumpstart

    A.S. COUNCIL — It’s no secret that the La
    Jolla
    community can be unwelcoming to UCSD students, often
    isolating the noisy hooligans who monopolize affordable housing and drag down
    local property values. Trying to integrate students into a neighborhood that
    shuts down at 10 p.m. is a historically difficult task, but A.S. Associate Vice
    President of Local Affairs Aida Kuzucan is making significant strides toward
    bridging that gap. Or, she would be — if anyone were helping her.

    To onlookers at the Dec. 2 La Jolla Christmas Parade, in
    which A.S. Council representatives were scheduled to appear, it must have
    seemed like Kuzucan was the victim of one of the oldest practical jokes on
    record. After waiting a fruitless hour in full elf garb for someone to help her
    spread the campus’ holiday cheer, she was forced to inform parade officials
    that UCSD would not be participating.

    When examined in a greater context, the situation represents
    a problem more serious than mere embarrassment: the noticeable and pervasive
    lack of zeal among many of this year’s councilmembers. In contrast to its perpetually
    active predecessor, this group’s inconsistent attendance at its other events
    last quarter has left more than just Kuzucan wondering where the council has
    been hiding.

    For the parade, the problem appears to be one of
    follow-through.

    Things looked promising when Kuzucan initially proposed that
    UCSD enter a float into the local holiday celebration, and 25 of her peers
    promised to help her build it. When no one showed up at designated construction
    time, however, she abandoned the float idea in favor of a simpler request: that
    councilmembers simply attend the parade. Twelve agreed to do so, but the number
    dwindled to five the day before the event.

    “I thought, ‘At least La Jolla’s
    going to say that UCSD will be represented in the community,’” Kuzucan said.

    Ultimately, though, she was wrong — not a single
    councilmember joined San Diego’s saddest elf
    that day, effectively flipping La Jolla a very
    jolly middle finger. While some of the no-shows offered up excuses of varying
    legitimacy, Kuzucan claimed that a number of them never even mentioned it
    again.

    Whatever reasons they may offer, UCSD’s already strained
    community relations took another hard hit — one that our student leaders could
    have easily prevented.

    Prior to the council’s constitution revamp last year, local
    affairs were left up to the habitually swamped external relations liaison,
    making their implementation even more difficult. The creation of Kuzucan’s
    position was designed to promote the development of community ties, which, if
    anything, should have increased the number of new projects in which the council
    could participate. What it was not designed to do, however, is facilitate the
    shirking of councilmembers’ responsibility to act as the representatives of the
    student body. Maintaining local relationships, like any council duty, is not a
    simple one-person job.

    Whether the aborted parade was a result of apathy or just
    bad timing, it should serve as a reminder that each councilmember represents
    more than just him- or herself as an individual. If a certain college’s two
    senators skip out on an event, for example, the college is not represented. In
    a case as extreme as this one, if every single councilmember bails on a
    commitment, the campus as a whole is not represented.

    If issues with participation were parade-specific, it would
    be easy to write the situation off as an isolated instance and chalk it up to
    circumstance. However, Vice President of Student Life Donna Bean has publicly
    reprimanded the council for its lackluster participation on more than one
    occasion, after its members skipped out on a food giveaway designed to promote
    the council’s on-campus presence, along with two other activities she
    organized.

    “For the most part, the council just doesn’t show up to
    things,” Bean said.

    Looking at the council as a whole, there could be any number
    of possible reasons as to why the group has gotten off to a slower start than
    in prior years. In the former constitution, each college had four senators as
    opposed to the current two, which promoted the instant formation of groups
    ready to tackle more ambitious projects. Weekly council meetings offer their
    own clues, as heated back-and-forths between councilmembers over even
    inconsequential matters paint a clear picture of polarized and divided
    governance.

    The old council also had the leadership of charismatic
    ex-President Harry Khanna, who undertook several massive projects — including
    the turf war over Student-Run Television and the aforementioned constitutional
    overhaul — that required and engaged the attention of the full council. This
    year has lacked any such large-scale efforts, which could explain the absence
    of enthusiasm with which senators have treated the smaller issues. In any case,
    the reasons are immaterial: The council needs to unify quickly, or it’s the
    students they represent who will be losing out.

    In an attempt to remedy this problem, Bean and A.S.
    President Marco Murillo are planning major events in the coming weeks to
    increase the council’s visibility, while Kuzucan is currently assembling a newsletter
    of councilmembers’ upcoming projects. As of two days before Kuzucan’s deadline,
    only half of the council had responded to her. Clearly, these are steps in the
    right direction, but they will only be effective if participation sees a sharp
    increase.

    It would certainly behoove the MIA councilmembers to unbury
    their heads from the sand and get themselves into the game as quickly as
    possible. Otherwise, if they continue to act as individuals and not a unified
    group, they could easily find themselves the next melancholy elves warding off
    the stares of judgmental soccer moms.

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