Students had no voice at Stroh Center vote

Guest Columnist and Guest Columnist

Over 50 concerned people showed up, mostly undergraduate students, to express their opposition to the immediate green lighting of Stroh Center construction. Serious concerns were raised about the timing of this proposal. Our economy is currently in a state of impending collapse. Many students are leaving the University due to inability to pay. Staff members are being given pink slips while others are having their contracts reduced from 12 to 10 months. Major cuts are being made in a plethora of excellent programs and initiatives on campus. On the national scene, millions are losing their jobs, having their houses foreclosed and losing health insurance. So why is this such a pressing priority? Reasons given at the USG were the need to develop a better ‘front porch’ to increase student enrollment, and a better place to hold sporting and entertainment events. Meanwhile, South Hall and University Hall continue to operate in deplorable conditions.’ Hanna and Moseley do not even have elevators. Rather than worry about academics, the University declares that sports, entertainment and a glitzy image are more important priorities than academics and educational facilities. What was most depressing about the meeting was what a sham it was. Many people who wanted to speak in opposition to the Stroh Center were not allowed to. Rather than have a sign-up sheet to ensure all had the opportunity to speak, people had to jockey for the ability to express their first amendment rights. The Roberts Rules of Order parliamentarian chastised us for daring to applaud people we agreed with, and threatened to throw us out if we did not stop our subversive clapping.’ He reprimanded a speaker for standing up.’ He rebuked a speaker for ‘making faces’ for simply reacting to the offensive words of another speaker. While this meeting had many guests, most USG meetings do not and I am not surprised.’ With this kind of horrible treatment, who in their right mind would want to sit through all that? Most important to note was the absolute arrogance and smarmy attitude of some of the senators. It is indisputable that there is not a groundswell of support for the Stroh Center among the student body. While senators quoted from anecdotal surveys, there was no solid empirical evidence to support that this is an idea that the student body is overwhelmingly behind. Several folks stated the issue should go to a referendum to allow students to weigh in when they vote in the next USG election. This sensible and just compromise was repeatedly shot down by condescending senators who informed us they were voted in to represent the student body (despite the fact that many ran unopposed or were appointed when other senators quit their posts.) This anti-democratic and power-hungry maneuver was truly a shameful slap in the face to people whose voices were ignored at this farce of a meeting. I believe many senators in USG are there to brown-nose the administration, steamroll over dissenting voices and push through the administration’s agenda rather than actually represent the will of the student body. Whether r’eacute;sume padding or obtaining letters of recommendation from powerful administrators, they see USG as a stepping stone to some day get their own cushy, high-ranking jobs. USG is simply a mouthpiece for University administration, concocted to give the illusion the student body has power and a democratic voice. This kangaroo congress was proof positive of the need for serious reform in USG and for leaders of integrity who believe in giving voice to their student constituents to step up and provoke a much-needed regime change. —Joelle Ryan is a graduate student in American Culture Studies.