If you’re one of 36,000 Cal students and 845 million Facebook users like me, you’ve probably been entranced by UC Berkeley Memes lately. Whether it’s the “Inception” maze of Dwinelle Hall, trollface 51B bus or “rent is too damn high” Clark Kerr Campus, these memes tailored to our community deliver some spot-on commentary on student life.
My personal favorite UC Berkeley meme addresses the annoying nature of the current ASUC election season. In the image, the two logos of political parties CalSERVE and Student Action are set next to each other, both donning the infamous Scumbag Steve hat. But the punchline of the meme is the caption that surrounds it: “Pretends to be your friend so you vote for them… never speaks to you again.”
Steve couldn’t have said it better himself. For the past few weeks, countless calls, texts, emails and Facebook messages have been sent to Cal students like you and me informing us that we have a new friend — who, conveniently, is running for an ASUC office! And like all totally mutual, noninstrumental friendships, our BFF is asking for a little help. Perhaps it’s attending their campaign kickoff event, endorsing them for office or — worst of all — waving their colossal sign on Sproul.
Whatever the nature of their requests, I implore my fellow Golden Bears to see through their thinly veiled layer of political manipulation. Don’t change your profile picture, don’t chalk Telegraph and — most importantly — don’t volunteer to hold their sign outside Kroeber Hall on a freezing rainy morning (you’re welcome, Noah Stern). Why? Because the ASUC is brimming with unprincipled, incompetent politicians, and supporting another cog in this broken machine will only set yourself up for disappointment.
Simply put, our elected representatives do not truly represent their constituents. ASUC elections are notorious for dismal turnouts of less than half of the student body, with only 44.7 percent voting last year. So instead of building their political platforms around the student body’s interests, candidates aim at scoring the endorsements of key communities who are more likely to vote, such as fraternities and co-ops.
After all, if our senators truly represented our diverse campus, there would logically be a diversity of opinions expressed in the senate chamber. On the contrary, the ASUC Senate votes unanimously at a suspiciously regular rate. Even worse, their undivided opinions are too often out of sync with what the student body actually believes.
Take the senate’s actions related to last semester’s “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” as an example. The senate originally passed a bill unanimously supporting California SB 185, which would have authorized the UC to consider race and gender in admissions decisions. But, contrary to the senate’s unanimous pseudo-representation of the student body, surveys have consistently shown that most Californians opposed SB 185 and affirmative action. One Survey USA poll, for example, determined that 77 percent of Californians opposed the bill. Considering that our campus is composed mostly of California students, I doubt the trend is dramatically different. But somehow, opinion is unanimous in the alternate reality that is the ASUC!
After the Berkeley College Republicans subsequently organized their bake sale in protest of this misrepresentation, the senate then unanimously “condemn[ed] the use of discrimination whether it is in satire or in seriousness by any student group” — an obvious statement of disapproval of the young conservatives. But outside the ASUC echo chamber, a Facebook poll created by The Daily Californian the night before the bake sale revealed that a vast majority of voters supported the event. If only elections could be held on Facebook as well — then perhaps we could vote the bums out more easily!
But by far the most powerful demonstration of the gap between the student body and our elected officials occurred just this semester. In February, the senate spent $400 on a bus to bring students to protest a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hearing in San Francisco. Our unanimous senate was a bit surprised to learn after the event that a measly three students actually rode the bus. On that day, the ASUC’s political bubble of misrepresentation was popped.
Fear not, fellow students, for it will be inflated again this election season with more candidates and more empty promises. As hopeless as this situation may sound, I still encourage students to vote. After all, apathetically abstaining will only amplify the voices of the candidates and their cronies. My generic but genuine advice is to vote and, more importantly, to hold your elected officials to their promises after election. After all, isn’t that what this democracy thing’s supposed to be about?