OP-EDS

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April 21, 2009

A blank slate

The United Progress executive slate offers nothing but talk

For most people, Student Government (SG) elections are not something to get very excited about. We don’t know who’s running, or if we do, we don’t like them—they’re typically ambitious, résumé-building, Metcalf-getting, connection-attaining androids. More fundamentally, we just don’t care: What has SG done for us lately? They brought back the A-Level. That was pretty good, I guess. But what about this year? (Answer: not a whole lot.)I say “we” here because I include myself among the apathetic. For the past three years on the Maroon’s editorial board, I’ve dreaded the annual process of interviewing the slates and then ultimately deciding between the lesser of two evils that are the competing SG slates.This year, I was in for a surprise. After meeting with the candidates, I was converted from apathetic to motivated, indifferent to caring. One slate stood out as head and shoulders above the others: I’ll be casting my vote—for the first time with any enthusiasm—for YouChicago.It should come as no surprise that the Moose Party, Delta Upsilon’s (DU) 15th-annual farce candidacy, isn’t my number one choice. This year, though, is a major improvement on past DU slates. At the debate, the three candidates were actually moderately funny, and when interviewed they were even a tiny bit credible. (Though when I suggested that they were 80-percent joke, 20-percent serious, one of the vice presidential candidates responded that I might be giving them a little too much credit.) The refreshing thing is that the Moose Party admits to knowing nothing. (When we inquired what they would do regarding the Kalven Report if elected, presidential candidate Anindya Kundu, responded: “I’d probably read it first.”)On the other hand, United Progress, headed by current SG Vice President Julian Quintanilla, knows nothing, and certainly won’t admit as much—but God knows that the candidates will talk and talk and talk if you dare ask them a substantive question. We spent literally half an hour trying to pin down one concrete change they would make if elected (I yawned aggressively a couple times, but they kept talking). I did realize one thing that would happen if they won: There would be more meetings on campus, more committees, more task forces, more dialogue—and less action. They also warned, as if it were a kind of threat, that if elected, they would try to talk to students more—show up at random dining hall tables, accost strangers at bus stops, etc. Meanwhile, YouChicago—don’t hold the annoying name against them—proposed many achievable improvements to campus. Things like installing more bike racks, adding an hour to the tail end of the Drunk Van, institutionalizing the airport shuttle, and improving the apartments.uchicago website are incremental yet real changes that YouChicago wants to, and can, accomplish. The slate is weakest when talking of the Kalven Report, which they propose reexamining. This defeats the purpose of the Report—an enduring document that is supposed to transcend any transient political argument. Fundamentally, though, YouChicago has a vision of SG that I admire. The candidates largely recognize the limitations of the role, and avoid self-aggrandizing themselves. For example, they support scrapping the traditional thrice-quarterly free dinners that College Council treats itself to—excuse me, that we students treat College Council to. Quintanilla on the other hand, went into a long-winded apology for this indefensible practice. To some extent, the Moose Party’s nihilistic view of SG is understandable, and one that I agreed with, at least in part. Yet YouChicago has allowed me to put a little faith in SG—and the people who run for it—for the first time. The Moose candidates can rest assured, however: They’re my second choice.

Matt Barnum is a third-year in the College majoring in psychology. He is a member of the Maroon Editorial Board.