Thursday, August 22

Submission: Insider Academic Senate appointments perpetuate USAC bureaucracy

On Jan. 30, 2018, the Undergraduate Students Association Council’s Academic Affairs Commissioner, Divya Sharma, wrote a submission in the Daily Bruin regarding his appointments to the Academic Senate. His piece defended his commission’s decision to appoint members of its own office, not the general student body, to the senate. What his lofty words and hubris fail to account for are the facts.

On Nov. 7, 2017, the Academic Affairs Commission brought forth 27 student appointments. Of those appointees, 13 students were appointed from within the AAC office, one of the students was the office’s appointments director and three spots were given to the commissioner himself. That means only 10 of the 27 appointments were truly open to the student body.

The commissioner argued the reason why he appointed so many from his office to the senate was to bypass “red tape” and “bureaucracy.” Appointing students from outside of the office, he argued, would result in “more talking, more unnecessary emails and worst of all, more sluggishness.” But that’s a mistaken notion: Getting more students involved with student leadership leads to less bureaucracy, less red tape and less of the USAC “elitism” that has been perpetuated for far too long.

The only office that appoints more students to campuswide boards and committees than the AAC is the Office of the President. As I pledged to do early in my term, my office conducted open recruitment for every position on our staff and every one of our appointments. We promised Bruins that applications would be considered on the basis of experience, qualifications and commitment to the vision of our office, not on the basis of who you voted for during last year’s election, and I’m proud to say we followed through on that promise.

This year the USAC Office of the President appointed 33 students, all of whom come from different majors, spaces and communities, to different campuswide committees and boards. Other council members pushed our office to reach out to as many students in as many communities and as many campus spaces as possible. And we did that, but not without challenge or controversy. The same cannot be said for AAC’s appointments, however.

And now, to address the real charge of the commissioner’s opinion piece and set the record straight: Neither I nor my staff have ever or will ever paint any group of students with one brush. The inflammatory charge that I or my office have any interest in stifling or limiting the participation or leadership of students of color is completely unsubstantiated. As a student of color, I am all too aware of the barriers – physical and otherwise – that many students of color face on our campus today – whether or not I experience them myself.

The commissioner is correct to say that students are fed up with the current USAC status quo of politicking and divisiveness. We need not look further than last year’s election’s voter turnout of 28 percent to confirm that. But the greatest irony of all is that the council member who has taken to the Daily Bruin to remind us of voters’ disinterest is himself perpetuating the divisiveness and nepotism that have caused students to disengage from USAC in the first place.

Neither our campus newspaper nor our council table are bully pulpits. Bruins deserve better.

Mokhtarzadeh is the 2017-2018 USAC president.

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