It’s Time to Revisit a Kindergarten Lesson: Sharing is Caring

Come on, A.S. Council, it’s too early for this. It’s midterms season, we know, and everyone’s stressed, but if yesterday’s political showdown is any indication you’re going to be shrieking battle cries come finals.

After last week’s budget S.N.A.F.U. was shelved the second it hit council floor, A.S. President Wafa Ben Hassine has been working overtime to make something that stands up against your basic number crunching. But while she’s been tinkering with decimals and chatting to administrators, other councilmembers had different ideas.

It’s not these ideas — which included cutting senatorial stipends in place of Sun God Festival funding — that cast an ominous shadow on the future of this council, but rather the way they were dealt with. Instead of taking these concerns straight to the president herself, these delegates cited “irreconcilable differences” and made their own budget.

Though the alternative budget is only there as a showcase of how different things could be, its mere existence spells disaster for a divided council further down the road — a council with clashing priorities and back-room deals.

Instead of Ben Hassine’s current brainchild — which spreads an 8-percent budget cut evenly across the Offices of the President, Student Life and External Affairs, giving the heads of those departments discretion to distribute as they see fit — this budget claims the superiority of being based on student surveys. These surveys, taken when students passed an activity fee increase in Spring 2009, indicated that students wanted to see more events like Sun God Festival or Bear Gardens.

Based on these results, the alternative budget preserves funding for the Office of Student Life (and therefore A.S. Concerts and Events), leaving our beloved Sun God Festival intact at the expense of staff development, travel expenses and senator stipends.

Don’t get us wrong, there’s parts of this that we love. Senators willing to take the money out of their own pockets in the name of preserving student life should not be taken lightly. For all A.S. Council’s talk of “gauging student opinion,” it’s rare that councilmembers look at student surveys that can even pretend to be a halfway accurate gauge of what the student body wants. Doing that, and then trying to reflect those results in the council’s budget, is itself a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

But the fact remains that A.S. Council isn’t here, as Ben Hassine herself said, to make UCSD “one big party.” If all of our students were here for a year-long rager, it would already be one big party with or without A.S. Council’s help.

There are kids who come to every Bear Garden and see Sun God Festival as the highlight of their year — the Final’s Week undie run is an almost religious occurrence for them. On the flip side, there are kids who still aren’t sure what a Bear Garden is, and who take the evening of Sun God as their cue to switch from Geisel Library to  CLICS (less chance of your study session being invaded by giddily intoxicated festivalgoers).

A.S. Council may be elected by only the vocal, party-loving students who want to see more money funneled into snagging the best artists, but it needs to represent everyone — even those who put poli-sci papers first. Downplaying the importance of concerts and events does nothing for our student life, of course, but sending the message that the other stuff doesn’t matter is just as inaccurate.

Priorities aside, there’s the matter of a divided council to consider. Not being able to pull together on something like an A.S. budget indicates trouble ahead — just as soon as another divestment resolution comes around, or when media guidelines revisit the spotlight. Last time an issue that controversial raised its ugly head, it gridlocked the council for days, where bitter arguments and “irreconcilable differences” played their parts in making sure nothing got done. The fear isn’t so much that issues like those will now get worse (because it’s hard to get worse than three weeks of dragged-out bickering) but that the smallest issues will devolve into Palestine-worthy brawl.

It’s the fourth week and there are already “irreconcilable differences.” Problems this early in the quarter do not bode well for the future; if people get embroiled in inter-council politics, sooner or later the reason they wanted to be there in the first place is going to fall by the wayside.

Regardless of whether Ben Hassine is everyone’s favorite person, she’s the democratically elected leader. She is going to be sitting at the head of the table for the rest of the year. If councilembers can’t figure out how to at least look her in the eyes when they’ve got a problem with how she’s doing things, this is going to get real uncomfortable real quickly. For all of us.