Under Split Cabinet, Council’s Got a Weak Connection

Spring Quarter was host to a rowdy campaign season for 2009-10 A.S. Council hopefuls, the majority of whom were especially enthusiastic about council visibility. Putting preach to practice this Monday, elected councilmembers — or, about 10 of the 50-odd students currently serving on the council — held the year’s first official “press conference” on their trusty ol’ black platform in Price Center Plaza.

A.S. President Utsav Gupta gave a short rundown of student-government goings-on to an unenthusiastic scattering of food-court patrons. He was followed by the always-charming VP Finance and Resources Peter Benesch, who delivered an uplifting speech about supporting the Grove Cafe, a longtime A.S. enterprise in the Student Center that the council plans to revamp this year.

That’s when things got kind of awkward.

“We also have two other vice presidents who couldn’t make it here today,” Gupta said.

He later attributed the absence of VP External Affairs Gracelynn West and VP Student Life Ricsie Hernandez to conflicts in their class schedules, though it seemed elemental that the press conference be adjusted according to the availability of two of four top cabinet members. It’s equally amusing that conference planners had the time to print out nifty little event-specific “Press Access” laminates to adorn their A.S. lanyards, but couldn’t drag along all the councilmembers needed to answer department-specific questions from students.

Not that there was much crowd participation, beyond a faceless “I want my money back!” and a councilmember’s threat that Gupta would be held accountable for his “bullshit” plans for a football referendum.

Campuswide Senator Adam Kenworthy and the two Warren College senators did make a noble attempt at catching side-glances from disinterested students via the shouting approach — though a sense of desperation couldn’t help but ring through all councilmembers’ voices by the end of the one-sided “conference.”

In the end, we agree it’s ridiculous that A.S. councilmembers would have to bend so far backward to get students to care about the almost $150 they pay to the council’s annual budget. Especially considering that the fee almost doubled last year. Ideally, we would all get off our asses and trek to the fourth floor of Price Center East every Wednesday evening to have our say. But we have to remember that most UCSD students didn’t even vote — neither for their representatives nor their puffed-up concerts-and-events contribution. But it’s still their money, and it’s one of the councilmembers’ most elemental jobs to force an alienated student body to care.

First, that means showing up like they care themselves. Where are those game faces we saw plastered all over campus during election season? Gupta can’t run a one-man show here. We recognize that there have been other individual A.S. efforts this year: West rallied student support for the walkout, and Hernandez has been hard at work on the First Fall program.

But no A.S. initiative will ever gain the student momentum it needs without some illusion of unity at the top. Visibility isn’t preferable if you’re visibly falling apart. It’s great to see Gupta and Benesch are getting along so well, but the absence of their other half, along with a giant chunk of the council’s voting body, paints an initial image for students of their council as a piecey, disunified clique. And really, guys — we’d love to be proven wrong.

The press conference was a start. But visibility events must far exceed the originally projected one per quarter and target alternative locations like the Student Center. Three quarters go by a lot faster than you think.

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