Dropping the ball: ’04 SG slates lacking

By Joshua Steinman

Three to four times as many students attended the porn classic Deep Throat at Doc on Wednesday night than sat through the Student Government (SG) executive slate debate in McCormick lounge. And with good reason. SG will never revolutionize the University of Chicago. In fact, if there were no Student Government executive slate next year, only a handful of people would notice. That is because the SG executive slate serves as an advocate for the student body to the administration. Nothing more.

The way SG can do the greatest amount of good for the most number of students is by demanding the administration allocate more money from our tuition to student life. All student groups can use this money to put on events, plan trips, and make student life better. After spending on RSOs, any money spent will achieve diminishing returns, because it will only affect small portions of the University community as a whole.

This year, the Student Government Finance Commitee proved to the administration that the student body needs more money for campus activities by funding all events fully, and then by running out of funds early. The role of the executive slate should be to lobby the administration for a greater share of our $40,000 tuition to be put towards funding for student activities. Electing an apologist of SGFC will send the message that we did something wrong by funding student activities in such a robust fashion.

SG needs to take an activist role in advocating for our needs as a student body. And funding for RSOs will give us the biggest bang for our buck. Cultural shows, speaker events, trips to jazz clubs, concerts on campus—all of these things happen with the help of the money allocated to RSOs. And more money will mean more events, more campus interaction, and a livelier student body.

There were some good ideas, like This Charming Slate’s proposal to double the number of drunk vans.

There were bad ideas, too. Along with most of the slates proposing to create a number of new committees, Raising the BAR wins the award for worst idea ever. Essentially, they want to sell out. They want to create a committee to find corporations to sponsor SG.

This is a terrible idea. Corporate sponsorship is bad because it undercuts the message and dangerously blurs the line between academic discourse and corporate ideologies. Imagine if you will, the “Phillip Morris SASA Show” with a free pack of cigarettes for every ticket holder. Or what if Lockheed Martin—one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world, and one of the biggest winners in the Iraq War—was tapped by Student Government to fund a panel discussion on U.S. foreign policy? Simply the signage would present a conflict of interest, since it would implicitly give consent to Lockheed’s practices by taking their money.

Furthermore, the University prohibits student groups from fundraising. Before this proposal ever got off the ground it would be shot down, since the University itself seeks out corporate donations to fund all kinds of projects. For example, Max Palevsky is named after the CEO of Intel (and graduate of the College) who donated millions of dollars to the University for the construction of the new dorm, among other things.

This proposal doesn’t raise the bar. It drops the ball. It sends the message that we were wrong for funding all of the student activities that we did this year. What they don’t understand is that as students we are consumers paying an institution $40,000 a year for an education. Asking for $10 from all University tuition to be diverted to spending on student life isn’t much to ask for—and would generate over $100,000.

We need to focus. The debate last night was a debacle because the slates talked about creating more committees to talk about accomplishing things. We need to realize that the only way SG can make a sustained improvement on campus is to advocate aggressively to the administration the need for increased funds for student life on campus. While many of the other ideas discussed last night were surely positive ones—building a new Amandala center, increasing funding for community interaction—none of them will impact student life in as positive a fashion as more spending for RSOs will.