Whenever I meet a non-first-year student, our conversations typically cover the four following topics: 1) my major (political science and international affairs), 2) where I live on campus (AI!), 3) how I enjoy the campus (considering my augmented use of heart eye emojis since attending here, I would say I love it), and 4) what I’m involved in. Although the conversations are typically lighthearted and fun, it’s not until I mention my involvement with ASUCR as a first year fellow that the conversation becoming instantly more intense. Immediately, the person will turn around almost self-consciously, and whisper, “Did you hear about what happened in elections last year?”
Now, I fully understand that as a first-year, the older students want to make me more aware of the controversy surrounding what happened, but I’m tired of the elections being the only thing associated with the organization upon its first mention. This summer, ASUCR took the largest delegation in all of UC Riverside history to the University of California Student Association (UCSA) Congress, where over 100 students got to receive activism training, vote on issues that they believe UCSA ought to focus on and propose their own campaigns. Is that not incredible?
What about the food pantry that ASUCR students spearheaded, allowing more students to have access to adequate nutrition despite income level? Let’s not forget about the Million Student March that the external affairs office organized, enabling students to publically voice their concern for free tuition, and even get featured in the Los Angeles Times. Or the R’Closet, an opportunity for students to have access to professional attire for interviews and jobs that they wouldn’t have the funds for otherwise?
When people hear that I am in ASUCR and only bring up the elections, immediately the hard work of each elected official is nullified and more attention is brought to a past issue rather than the important issues at hand.
I’ve heard both sides of the story, and since I wasn’t a part of the UCR campus culture when it happened, I am not apt to tell you what side I am more supportive of. However, what I can say is that above political parties and job titles, we are all students attending the same school with the same goal of graduating in four years and leaving the campus in a better place than we once found it. We have become fixated and fascinated by the election controversy, but we have work that needs to get done — progress that won’t be possible without every single one of us working in a unified effort to curate positive change. It’s time for us to shift our focus from how the elected students got their position to holding the students accountable to carrying out their goals throughout their term.
Decisions are made by people who show up. I go to every senate meeting, yet I’ve never seen the people who hold dissent toward ASUCR present at the meetings, where all legislation is approved, budgets are voted upon, updates are given and public forum is opened for students to share their thoughts. If you want something changed, make the intentional effort to voice such concerns. Be proactive in the notion that your voice matters, but be cautious that an over-scrutinizing of one event can bring to the overall progression of the campus goals.
The spring 2015 elections provide a powerful reminder in the necessity of accountability in both the student population and the elected students. By no means am I suggesting that we forget the events of the past, but rather use the remaining time at UC Riverside to channel our energy into working cooperatively and inclusively to abolish the belief that students cannot create change.
The failures of movements are often not due to external factors, but rather internal frictions that cause the dismantling of the groups involved. The people in power, whether in the form of campus administration or in local, state or national government, want to see us divided, because when we’re divided and focused on petty issues, we devote less energy to the essential issues at hand.
We must show that we are stronger than the remnants of the past, that we can still work together to push the campus forward into receiving the recognition and resources that it deserves. Old Scots near and far, it’s time for collaboration, not collision. Let’s show people back as far as the highlands the things that our school can accomplish, together.