Gabriel Okolski: Living in poster hell

Funger Hall is already an architectural eyesore and perhaps the ugliest building on campus. I never thought it could possibly get any worse.

Unfortunately, I have once again been proven wrong thanks to that special time of the year we all know and love: the Student Association election season. The building’s facade, along with other locales on campus, has been transformed into a mosaic celebrating mediocrity and poor governance. Sure, some of the posters are clever or well done, but they are overshadowed by the downright thoughtless, pretentious, or just plain dumb graphical aids that band together to form one huge visual assault on passing students.

Gone are the days when those running for student government stayed up late with their friends and a pack of magic markers, making original, homemade designs on poster board. Now, a trip to the Marvin Center Kinko’s and a $200 credit card purchase takes the place of this ritual. With all the effort that these candidates take to shamelessly spray their names all over campus, one would think that they would invest more time and money into endeavors with a direct benefit to students (aside from a bus to an airport I never visit).

My reaction to the posters strangling Funger Hall – after the initial sickness that forced me to cancel my lunch at Coggins’ – is to look away. Perhaps that is your reaction too, and I really don’t blame you. But I think it would be best for students to stifle that same instinct that keeps us from staring directly at the sun, and give the SA a long, hard look. It’s only then that we can really complain about the SA and be justified in saying that they actually do nothing.

I don’t think the SA, in its current form, deserves much attention, but I have a practical reason for you to keep reading: money. Every year, this so-called governing body takes 30 of the average student’s dollars and spends it however it chooses. The fact that this sum is petty cash for most students here is irrelevant; we have a moral obligation to prevent incompetent people from controlling our money, an endeavor in which Americans usually fail.

We have the opportunity to change this trend, but not without first deciding for ourselves – from first-hand interaction, not posters or hearsay – whether something serious should be done. This will not be easy to accomplish on a large scale. Most people clearly don’t care about the SA, evidenced from last year’s dismal election turnout, and I doubt that more than 1 percent of the people I interact with have ever been to a full Senate meeting.

I’m not saying that you necessarily have to vote in this election to get involved; instead plan on going to one Tuesday night Senate meeting before the year ends, something I have pledged to do to get a better idea of what’s going on. You don’t have to stay for a full-fledged seven-hour meeting, but at least get a sense of what these people are doing for us. Try e-mailing your SA senator, a task that will take less time for most people than finding out who their representative actually is. After the election, ask them what they plan to do with your money. Ask them how they plan to help you out. Tell them what they should be doing for us, and make it abundantly clear that we will not put up with petty politicking.

Getting to know the people behind the ugly machine is the first step in ending what has been going on. A lot of SA members I have spoken with are good people, but if we continue to let them operate in a clique, things will continue to go bad and money will be wasted. I’m not expecting that these simple steps would increase turnout overnight, but if enough people start getting involved, voting numbers will increase. And when that happens, the ability of incompetent people to get elected and take control of our resources will be hampered. This is not a short-term process, but we can begin after this election by taking a couple of minutes out of our week to hold these people accountable.

There is a definite role for some sort of student representation on this campus, a fact that most people who advocate getting rid of the SA tend to ignore. We do not have very much power here as students, but giving up what little we have to the administration would be a mistake. The SA we have now is not the one that best suits us and requires change, but the only way that will happen is if we slowly take our seat at the table and stop putting up with misspending, false assurances and wasted time.

I don’t promise that the posters will get any better, but maybe, just maybe, increased accountability could be the path to a better student government.

-The writer, a junior majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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