Bruins haven’t always been united behind Bruins United. But last week’s Undergraduate Students Association Council election demonstrated just how out of touch slates have been with the student body.
USAC slates have long been the subject of criticism, and Bruins United is no exception. Slate members’ repeated failures in responding to controversial events – most recently the slate’sbotched response to a photo of USAC President and Bruins United member Danny Siegel forming a gang sign – made it clear how slate-affiliated council members consistently put their party’s needs over the student body’s.
But Friday’s resounding victory for independent candidates changes that. This year’s election provides an enormous and unprecedented, opportunity for next year’s council to put students before slate politics. And elected candidates need to do good on that promise.
It doesn’t take much to see how the overbearing wants of slates caused the council to neglect students’ needs.
Two years ago, the LET’S ACT! slate, which has since disbanded, allegedly used student fees and sold alcohol and marijuana to raise campaign revenue, possibly soliciting money from student groups to guarantee their representation in the slate – pay to play, in other words.
Last year, many Bruins United council members voted to block a general representative’s attempts to present a fraternity’s racist meeting minutes at a council meeting. They cited the council’s bylaws as justification, despite suspending them on many prior occasions. It’s important to note the same council members presented unconvincing ideas for addressing racism on campus following the “Kanye Western” incident in October 2015.
And just last week, Bruins United council members voted as a bloc against a motion to extend public comment indefinitely, despite the numerous students who came to voice their opinions. Faced with the choice of either shielding a fellow slate member from criticism or allowing their constituents to speak, slate members chose the former – a decision they immediately reversed after the resulting student uproar was pointed out by a fellow council member.
It’s clear campus political slates have hindered the council’s ability to truly represent the student body. After this year’s independent sweep, it’s time for all elected officials to put populace over party. The diverse groups represented by each elected independent candidate offer hope to a council that has historically neglected several UCLA communities.
Of course, this isn’t to say slates shouldn’t serve a role in USAC. But, as students have seen time and time again, while campus slates do a good job of getting candidates elected, they’re less useful helping council members fulfill their duties.
And certainly, slate members can proudly proclaim they will change their parties from the inside. But the reality of how unfeasible that is needs to kick in – the student body said as much with its votes last week.
There is a correct way to run slates so that they do not impede council members’ abilities to act prudently, ethically and independently on the council table. But this campus hasn’t seen that yet.
Next year’s council has the great responsibility of rebuilding students’ trust in student government. It has the independence to do that – it just needs to follow through.