Platforms without Foundations
Every March we have AUSG elections. We get candidates that promise to fix all of AU’s problems, but don’t really take the time to sit down and figure out what all of those problems are.
Now I’m not going to pretend I know the answers to all of AU’s problems, or even what all of those problems are. I’m just another AU student who likes cool music and Star Wars and is involved in Student Media. But by constantly listening to leaders and members of our organizations throughout this year as one of AU’s Student Media Board Chairs, I think I have a pretty good idea about where student media needs to go in the near future and what work needs to be done. And with many future projects and initiatives, AU’s Student Media Organizations will need the help of Student Government. Student Government can be a force for positive change and reform when the right people are in it and understand exactly what students need.
But what has always bothered me about AUSG, specifically AUSG candidates, is that many of them don’t bother to take the time to research and really get to know the real issues affecting students and student organizations. Many times candidates put together their platforms without consulting the students they claim their platforms will work for, or just fail to understand what students truly need (keep in mind, the following pertains specifically to Student Media, and the opinions within are solely my own and do not represent everyone on Media Board. I have personally met with Devonte Torriente, and some candidates have reached out to a couple select organizations).
Take Faith Rokowski for SG Secretary’s platform, for example. This is just one candidate’s platform, but many others closely echo it. It contains a section that tries to describe the relationship between AUSG organizations and Student Media Board and lays out plans to improve relations. The section states:
SG usually just puts out a press release, or has an article in the Eagle if they want to make an announcement. This is due to a slow breakdown of communication between Student Government and Student Media. If I’m on the ballot, I hope to campaign on restoring and vastly improving this relationship.
If I’m on the ballot, I hope to campaign on regularly meeting with e-boards from not only The Eagle, but also every other student media outlet on this campus, many of which have been virtually ignored by SG this year. I want to not only utilize these forms of student media, but also help to lift them up, and grow their base and readership.
I’m not too sure where the Rokowski campaign got the idea that there has been a “slow breakdown of communication between Student Government and Student Media”, but Student Media Board and organizations within student government like KPU and SUB have made great strides this year to mend previously broken and hostile relationships.
KPU made significant efforts this year to include different media organizations in covering their events. They didn’t just have “an article in The Eagle”. Bill Nye the Science Guy’s event announcement was made through The American Word Magazine. Photo Collective takes many of the photos for official SG events. ATV has gotten to interview people like Madeleine Albright and many other speakers that have come to campus.
Claiming to want to improve relationships between SG and Media Board without accurately knowing what the dynamics of those relationships are doesn’t help anyone. We’ve worked hard this past year on creating healthy working relationships with other organizations while maintaining our respective organizations’ autonomy. I’m extremely proud of that. And while I agree with Rokowski’s sentiment that SG can potentially help AU’s student media organizations, her platform expresses a misunderstanding of how AU Student Media operates and falls short of recognizing the real problems facing media board in the near future, specifically student space.
Now I’m all for candidates and elected SG officials reaching out to clubs and organizations, figuring out their needs, and finding ways to help them. But what many of them have to understand is that they have to first make the conscious effort to reach out to those people, instead of just offering “solutions” to “problems” they know very little about.
We’ve had periods of time where SG meddling in media board funding and operations has been disastrous, the budget rollover debacle in 2014 for example. Many times, the “solutions” SG officials and candidates propose won’t actually help. And it’s this system of top-down management and problem-solving that so many student government candidates subscribe to that makes students cringe whenever SG is mentioned. You can’t solve all of the problems facing the student body, and you can’t solve problems you don’t fully understand. Candidates for student government shouldn’t just reach out to student organizations and learn their problems when they’re looking for endorsements. If you want to represent and fight for students, you should reach out to them weeks before you even consider running.
The prospct of Rokowski as Secretary isn’t the problem (her campaign also reached out to AmLit). I’m glad Rokowski is interested in helping out Student Media Board and continuing the work that KPU and current Secretary, Martin Valderruten, have done to improve relationships between all campus organizations. What I am wary of is the lack of outreach from many of the candidates who claim they want to help out Student Media, yet haven’t taken the time to really figure out our most pressing issues both as individual organizations and as a whole.
AU Student Media is comprised of 9 organizations that contain hundreds of students. We receive the same percentage of the student activities fee as Club Council, and have students from all backgrounds in our organizations.
If the vast majority of these candidates aren’t reaching out to us, I doubt many of these candidates have met with and talked with all of the groups they claim to represent or fight for. Students aren’t just votes or demographics you can check off with a policy proposal or a few lines in your platform. Organizations aren’t endorsement machines for your political ambitions. Your platform must be shaped by the people you aim to represent and accurately reflect the wants and needs of your constituents.
If you’re going to campaign on an issue or on behalf of a group, you better talk with the people involved and get their input. This goes for every club, demographic, student group, student movement, and organization on campus.
If you’re going to campaign on supporting Student Media, reach out to people in and leading student media.
And if you’re going to campaign on being a voice for students, hear those student voices first. Regardless of whether or not you end up actually working on the tenets of your platform, at least make your platform substantial and representative of the real problems facing AU students. Don’t just co-opt positions that sound or look good and hope students believe your message is sincere. We can see through the facade.
Sean Carolan is a junior studying Public Relations and Business and Entertainment. He is currently Co-Chair of the AU Student Media Board and the Station Manager of WVAU. As Media Board Co-Chair Sean helps run meetings between all AU Student Media Organizations, allocate funding, mediate conflicts, and advocate on behalf of AU’s Student Media Organizations.