AR 16 Tarnishes Student Representation

UT students of diverse interests and beliefs gather at the Student Activities Center food court for lunch and coffee

Danny Zeng | October 22, 2013

“What is Student Government for?” Well hopefully for all students. From this fundamental premise do I strongly take issue with a current Student Government resolution AR16: In Support of Undocumented Students and Undocumented Longhorn Week (which by the way was last week), for it caters to the interest of a particular group and fails to represent a plurality- perhaps even majority – of students on campus.

The proponents of this resolution had repeatedly argued on precedent, citing a SG resolution in 2010 in support of major components of the DREAM Act. I must ask though: if precedent is good enough, then why even elect representatives into office or attempt to periodically “reaffirm” former legislation? The very nature of seeking reaffirmation in this case is a legislative choice that forgoes the power of the precedent.  Put it another way, if that 2010 resolution is already good enough, why push for a separate legislation now to reaffirm its substance? While consulting precedents is a prudential course of action, it does not mean precedents are infallible and sacrosanct; our government has overturned its own precedents many times throughout the nation’s history. If the precedent argument sustains, Student Government’s passage of AR 16 tonight in implicitly endorsing a particular student group’s agenda would in effect open up the floodgate for all student organizations, religious, cultural, political, etc. to seek declarative recognition for their contributions and activities on this campus.

The proponents also argue that the resolution is simply intended to show support for fellow Longhorns. Yet, AR 16 specifically mentions the University Leadership Initiative, which in my view is an overtly political campus group. In an October 5th tweet from the group, the ULI announced, “Come out and support us as we march for immigrants rights here in Austin!” [this conveniently blurs the line between legal immigration and illegal immigration but that aside…] Similarly, in the group’s press release on August 26th of this year, it stated that “If Congress is serious about passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill, then it should take into consideration family reunification.” Actually, I and many others happen to believe the contrary: serious immigration reform requires us to move away from family reunification and toward a more talent-based system, a dramatically different policy preference. From the context I have provided using ULI’s own words, I would suggest to you that ULI is an organization with a clear and stated political agenda. The passage of AR 16 would thus only narrowly represent one point of view in a controversial, heavily contested political issue.

Proponents’ Letter of Concern on October 15th charges, “how is it that our ‘representatives’ are willing to deny many of our family members, friends and classmates the support that they deserve?” I honestly feel bad for our student government representatives who are in effect being bullied to support this resolution or else be perceived as morally deficient, for not doing the “right” thing. Basing their arguments on victimization and the rhetoric of “deserve,” proponents’ use of guilt tripping tactics not only undermine civil discourse, it unnecessarily creates fissures within the UT community. In fact, if you ask me, may I suggest that most of our Student Government reps open-mindedly and almost apologetically kowtows on this issue because they are so respectful (afraid) of our undocumented activist peers. If anything, the power to deny is well within the court of proponents.

In summary, I reject the notion that Student Government of this University of Texas necessarily has to support and advocate for activities, initiatives, beliefs, and goals of any particular student group on any overtly controversial political issue – at the expense of other students’ beliefs – when the issue could be best left to the campus political community to hash out. If one student group could steer the legislative agenda of our student government, then SG would be nothing more than a rubber stamp for special interests on this campus. Let us all do our fellow Longhorns the decency of respecting their diverse experiences and upbringings and not cavalierly disparage and dismiss hardships that they have lived through as fellow human beings.

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Green Tax on Tuition Dollars to Fund Tree Nursery

 

Solar Charging Station Outside of Perry Castenada Library

Solar Charging Station Outside of Perry Castenada Library
Photo credit: Gabriella Beltzar | Daily Texan Staff

An article on the front page of DT on Monday explains various uses of the $500,000 strong Green Fee Initiative. Every student pays $5 per long semester as part of tuition toward this fund. The Green Fee Committee is charged with allocating this fund; however, its own website admits that specific allocation guidelines are “yet to be adopted,” causing one to question exactly how does the committee objectively judge the merits of each “green” proposal that comes before it. According to its website, the GFI has funded pricey projects such as the “UT Tree Nursery” for a hefty sticker price of $35,478, “Activity and Service Expansion for the UT Campus Environmental Center ” for $47,025, a bicycle campaign for $32,060, $10,080 for a “solar powered campus,” and thousands of dollars more worth of projects. Is that really a good use of our tuition dollars? O, by the way, just in case that no one finds out about these wonderful things this committee is dictating for the community, the committee allocated $16,350 in 2011-2012 just to publicize these outrageous spending projects. While some projects appear more justifiable than others, the overall concept of coercing all students to pay into this fund by levying a fee as part of tuition is abominable. Considering the skyrocketing cost of higher education that is increasingly pricing middle and working class families from the college market, wouldn’t it be nice – and less bureaucratic – to instead use this money to set up a scholarship fund for gifted students majoring in environmental science? There are better ways to promote sustainability than subjectively awarding common-pooled money toward questionable, seemingly good “green” projects.