Sunday, September 22

Submission: USAC needs to reset priorities


Since September I have been director of community engagement for the General Representative 3 office of the Undergraduate Students Association Council. In this capacity I have been responsible for overseeing one of General Representative Lizzy Naameh’s platforms. The following is my letter of resignation from the USAC General Representative 3 office, effective immediately.

I joined USAC because I wanted to make a positive change on the UCLA campus. After being involved with numerous campus organizations during my last three years here, I felt that only USAC, equipped with legislative authority over student fees and a vast wealth of resources, could launch enduring programs capable of changing students’ lives and improving campus climate.

Time and time again, I was disappointed by councilmembers’ misplaced priorities. In meetings, instead of being asked what students needed and how we could help them, we were lectured on military aid in the Pacific and Israeli policies in Gaza. Instead of focusing on how to improve our own university, members of USAC insisted we focus on global political issues over which we had no sway.

Many sitting members of council are self-described “activists.” While I applaud their activism, the council table is not the place for it. They were elected to be leaders, and that means making legislative decisions that will benefit all the students they represent. It does not mean reducing USAC to a soapbox from which to broadcast divisive opinions that divide campus communities and force students to pick sides against each other.

The recent debate over divestment from companies that profit from Israeli occupation is but one example of a startling trend in USAC: Councilmembers have repeatedly passed ringing declarations stating their positions on global politics, rather than working to create substantive change on real campus issues that affect the student body.

Where are we on increasing access to mental health resources? Where are we on helping homeless students? Where are we on improving workers’ rights on campus, or taking proactive measures to ensure our campus is safer for students?

It seems as if these tangible student needs are of no importance to the present council, even though it was elected to meet them; I’ve lifted those few examples from the platforms they ran on.

Instead, we’ve wasted countless hours of precious legislative time debating the job record of the former secretary of Homeland Security, the efficacy of statewide ballot propositions, Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action and peace in the Middle East.

Councilmembers should be reminded that they are neither U.S. Congress nor the United Nations. They are the sole officially sanctioned legislative representatives of the undergraduate student body of UCLAproviding students with lasting programs that affect real and much-needed change is their primary responsibility.

I must emphasize that my resignation has nothing to do with my position on divestment. I respect the views of all Palestinian and Israeli students. Nevertheless, the University of California has made it perfectly clear that not a single cent of UC funds will be divested from companies engaged with Israel unless the U.S. declares that the government is committing acts of genocide.

Since we can all agree that will not happen, we must be clear that Tuesday night’s divestment resolution is nothing more than an empty gesture that can only hurt the Israeli and Jewish communities on campus. Passing the resolution marginalizes Jewish and Israeli students; voting it down ignores the wishes of Palestinian students. There simply is no right answer with divestmenteverybody loses. It is an issue, like many others the council has doggedly pursued, that promises only to tear apart a campus councilmembers promised, in taking office, to bring together.

Councilmembers’ egregiously misguided set of priorities is especially offensive given that they have requested almost twice as much pay as previous councils for doing less than half the work. If councilmembers wish to repurpose the student fees we all pay for their own benefit, rather than using them to fund impactful programs or facilitate the operations of UCLA’s more than 1,000 student organizations, they should make sure they’ve earned those scarce funds.

Councilmembers must stop burning bridges and start building them. I hope they will work to reverse a dangerous trend that threatens to replace our only vehicle for student-driven progress with petty partisan politics.

And most of all, I hope that before each councilmember leaves office they remember to put students first. In every action they take, they must ask: What is it that my fellow students need, and how can I better serve that need? How can I help make our university a better, safer and more caring place for all students?

Moffitt is a fourth-year art history student and the former director of community engagement for the General Representative 3 office of the Undergraduate Students Association Council.

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  • adslkjf

    I applaud you for doing the right thing. Half of these people in student government are there to milk it for their own personal benefit. They aren’t there to serve our school. What happened to the promise of having syllabi for upcoming quarters’ being made available at time of class enrollment? NOTHING. All of these people are selfish and don’t care about their peers like they say they do. They are just like our current politicians in US CONgress. In fact, I’m sure many slimebags on USAC will be running to bring their filthy selves to Capitol Hill. By the way, Pakistan is the largest sponsor of terrorism worldwide. Why not divest from Pakistan? Just wondering.

    • Anon

      are we investing in pakistan in the first place?

      • peterlake

        We sure are…..$1.6 Billion last year.

        • Anon

          ucla is not investing 1.6 billion in pakistan

          • peterlake

            The USA is investing that much in Pakistan.

            So how much is UCLA investing there?

          • Anon

            zero

          • peterlake

            Hardly surprising, since the two top investment officers for UCLA are Indian by birth.

  • Former USAC Member

    Thank you for publishing what is hands down the most accurate description of USAC I’ve seen in years.

  • Matt

    “global political issues in which we have no sway.” Way to cede power to the powers that be… As a history student, you should be aware of the role of student movements in promoting and forcing social change. I hope UCLA instills that in you before you graduate with that ill-informed idea and negative, self-defeating attitude. Kinda turns me off to your message as a whole.

    • Shelz

      I understand your valid point, yet you digress from the fact that he is saying that the council spent all their resources on one side of an international issue, instead of doing what they were elected to do. I would think suicide prevention and having a safer campus is a more important focus than trying to solve the problems of the middle east. Especially if, in doing so, creates a negative and possibly violent campus. That’s the opposite of the role for student affairs. That should be up to a different organisation.
      And I really don’t think sanctions from ucla will create peace in the middle east, but that’s just my opinion.

      • timinhi

        Matt’s point is NOT “valid.” Moffitt isn’t suggesting that “student movements” stop their activism on global issues out of a sense of self-defeat. He’s only pointing out that USAC is not only not the appropriate forum for such issues, but is an inefficient waste of efforts and resources as a place to voice concerns over those issues. One doesn’t effectively protest the war in Afghanistan by taking the issue to the local planning commission, but rather to Congress, the U.N., or some other governing entity that has actual authority in the matter, and where you’re more likely to gain the ear of not only those who care, but those who might actually be able to affect change. USAC, like the planning commission, was created for a specific purpose that doesn’t encompass geopolitical issues of a much larger scale. These activist members of the council are not only effectively spinning their own wheels with their efforts on these issues, but they’re wasting the time and precious resources that was allocated to USAC by the student body specifically to address the real issues on campus over which they have actual purview. And they’re being paid, apparently excessively, to do so. They maybe got students to think about an issue that maybe they otherwise wouldn’t, and that’s a good thing. But they did so at the expense of spending the time & money on accomplishing the actual goals they were elected to work on. And their resolution is almost purely symbolic. They could have accomplished the same thing on their own time by setting up a card table on Bruin Walk with information pamphlets & a petition.

  • Anon

    i think we should discuss the shortened winter break for next quarter. that’s relevant and non-controversial

    • wueroie

      USAC members such as Lizzy Naameh cannot milk the issue for publicity, hence their reason for not doing anything regarding such an issue.

      • Duncan London

        She has proven to be an amazingly bad actor throughout this.

  • askf

    Promoting controversial issues in USAC helps pad the members’ resumes, which is basically the only reason leaders join. The organization is composed of selfish strivers.

    • Dismantle USAC

      It took you that long to figure this out???? Next you will post a comment about how 1+1 = 2.

  • Bye

    Good riddance.

  • Guest

    Bravo. Before getting all high and mighty and attempting to tackle global issues, USAC should consider trying to remedy the plethora of issues that need addressing on campus. Who are we to try to make statements about other people’s issues when we can’t even fix our own…? And the fact that council members raised their own stipends without addressing the student body during the school year really bothers me. It’s shady and dishonest politics.

  • Very Far North

    Things have gone seriously off the rails. John Joanino’s decision that the vote should be secret only poured gasoline on the fire. The only idea worse than bringing this resolution is to make the vote secret so that the elected leaders of USAC aren’t accountable for their vote.

    We need a USAC that focuses on real student needs rather than a pretend foreign policy. That’s going to require some serious changes of leadership, since it’s clear the current leadership just doesn’t want to hear that.

    • fdfasfd

      Well, it’s pretty obvious who supports divestment: John, Lizzy, Jessica T, Maryssa, and Savannah. The rest oppose.

      • Very Far North

        “Pretty obvious” just isn’t good enough. Almost by definition, elected bodies don’t conduct secret ballots unless they’re engaged in subterfuge. The decision to hold a secret vote is reprehensible and disgusting, and a giant middle finger to every Bruin on either side of this issue. John Joanino should be ashamed of himself, and should resign his office so someone of character, someone with the courage of his or her convictions, can lead USAC.

  • lost_nacf_gop

    The saddest thing about this description of the “functioning” of Student government is – to this loyal alumnus at least (’82) – that those serving in a public setting like this – many no doubt for their first time – are already emulating the worst of the worst in our state and federal legislative bodies – debating things over which they have no control, authority or influence, while the controllable issues – those which they can and should address, continue to suffer neglect.

  • sueboo

    According to LA Times, these student “advisory resolutions have no power over UC finances. The UC regents and other administrators have said they have no intention of any divestments focused on Israel.”

    http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-ucla-student-israel-divestment-20140226,0,2201815.story#ixzz2uVDab1nMhttp://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-ucla-student-israel-divestment-20140226,0,2201815.story#axzz2uVAjqO9P

  • Duncan London

    Outstanding, this was an act of courage, clarity and rationality, I’m amazed that it happened on a college campus. Evan, If I ever run into you I’de be happy to buy you a beer.

    • Very Far North

      Me too. Your money’s no good anywhere I’m drinking, Evan.

  • mstafa22

    HURTS ISRAELI community? Why? It is a WAKE UP CALL

    DIVEST, DESTROY, RETAKE ISRAEL

  • anonish

    evan,

    lizzy has already given you sufficient response through her own channels, but i’d simply ask on that you do not need to tokenize the struggles of mentally ill students on your campus in favour of your own public displays of being above it all and pointing out what you perceive to be the failures of people whose priorities don’t match your list of priorities that aren’t your actual priorities. lizzy naameh has done more for the mental health of a wide variety of alienated and disenfranchised people at ucla than you can currently imagine, and i fear that may be because you fail to imagine what it feels like to be invested in the devastation of a people, let alone your own people.

    i don’t want to say shame on you for not understanding. i want to say think better, expand your horizons. realise that your insistence that college needs to be just about college students is rooted largely in your subject-position as a college student. colleges are massive institutions with investments tied up in all kinds of awful things and that affects all kinds of people all over the planet, and that in turn also affects college students. publicly chastising student reps for not being as caught up in provincialism as you are is very basic and the world is not that way. in an ostensibly democratic institution in an ostensibly democratic society that is unfortunately becoming less democratic, people have less and less of a say in where their money goes. if largely symbolic gestures are what conscientious people can strive for now in order to demonstrate to the regents that the tide of student opinion is shifting in a serious way on divestment, then that is a channel that you can expect them to take, not because it is their ideal option but because it is a functional step in a long process to rectify one of the many of the injustices our university is involved in.

    if you think that a meeting with literally hundreds more in attendance than any other meeting usac has had is not discussing issues relevant to the campus community, then you are not as smart as i thought you were. usac members from across the political spectrum agreed to put time into this issue, and you could ask nearly any student in that room and they would tell you it was probably more important for them to sit there and listen to people talk about that thing for 9 hours than it was to do any other thing at that time. even students who typically unconcerned with usac or student government politics showed up, not for model un, not for a simulation, but for an opportunity to convey perspectives on an issue that is relevant to their lives and is relevant to human life in general. students pay money that gets invested into companies that do messed up stuff, and so students organise to ensure their university’s resources are not facilitating that in order pressure those companies make that messed up stuff not happen. the world is a useful thing for student governments to engage with, as it’s kinda that thing we’re supposedly a part of, ‘inheriting’ if you will.

    signed,
    a mentally ill student who would not like to see that struggle used as a weapon to silence or distract from the university’s complicity in human rights abuses.

  • garybkatz

    Sure there’s a right answer to divestment: don’t do it. It seems so obvious that the obsession with this tiny sliver of Middle Eastern land is strange, and certainly beyond the scope of student organizations’ mandates.

  • peterlake

    As a life member of the UCLA Alumni Association I applaud Mr. Moffitt’s sensibility and appreciation of what’s happening at UCLA — and on campuses around the country – students with no proper understanding of the way the world works think they can bend it to their will, starting on their own campus.
    In the 60′s we thought we could change the world with film, bring peace and love to the world and replace war with sexual intercourse and pot.
    Students need to focus on what’s in front of them, not beyond their horizon.
    Sorry for your distress, Mr. Moffitt, but at least you’ve got a grasp on reality, unlike the other students with whom you’ve become distressed. Good luck.

  • Diggsc

    Wait a second. You are stating that effete, spoiled 20 year old undergraduates in charge of student policy at UCLA are not able to bring peace to the world via antisemitism?