The streets are once again crowded and the weather is, well, the same as always. Local businesses swell with fresh new students, and a collective frustration over tuition policies and class registration looms over the campus. The new semester is upon us, and this time it comes with a special treat: elections. Nov. 8 sits around the corner, and the political climate in Berkeley is hotter than ever.
I know. You can hardly contain your excitement. Neither can I.
You might be thinking that local politics are petty and useless — that bickering over which streets will have free parking and which won’t is not the greatest use of your time. You might even be right. After all, UC Berkeley students, for the most part, bop into our glorious city, romp around for just four years and then bop out, leaving whatever effort they put into their community behind.
Becoming fully knowledgeable enough to make educated choices on the November ballot would take so long, it’s almost definitely not worth it.
Nine people are running for mayor (so far) and four City Council seats are up for grabs. Berkeley residents will also vote yes or no on 11 separate city ballot measures covering everything from raising landlord taxes to raising the minimum wage, and they will elect members of the Rent Stabilization Board as well as the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education. On top of all that, we have to select a state Assembly member, a state senator, a U.S. congressperson, a U.S. senator, a U.S. president and make decisions on 17 state propositions. It’s an absurd amount of democracy.
The best way to handle it is almost certainly to lay low, evade the pests that try to register you to vote in the streets, burn The Daily Californian newsstands, turn off CNN push notifications and watch a few more Buzzfeed food-making — or “Tasty” — videos.
At the end of the day, whether or not Berkeley’s minimum wage rises to $15 is irrelevant to the students who attend this school. We’ll all be leaving soon and the rise won’t take effect until October 2017 at the earliest! With so little time to enjoy the benefits of such an ordinance, why should a transient student population even care?
While some might argue that students should actively want to make positive improvements to the communities they are a part of, such as the city of Berkeley, I’d argue that students should instead try their damnedest to ignore the community — to reject playing any part in it. To bury their heads in the sand.
What do we need from the city of Berkeley anyway?
The only way city politics and city elections actually do impact students is in issues such as housing policy. And that is barely a student concern. I mean, just go ask around on campus. Nobody is paying too much for rent or anything like that. There’s plenty of cheap housing to go around. Why bother?
And sure, things like the last fall’s group living accommodations, or GLA, ordinance — which imposes harsh noise and gathering restrictions at objectively early hours — might seem to explicitly target students in harmful ways, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we’re only here for four years. Even if active participation was helpful, any benefits to me are merely temporary. I’ll be leaving, after all.
Two years ago, a mass movement to create a student supermajority district for City Council was almost successful, until no students decided to run for the seat — a victory for apathy everywhere.
In that spirit, we should just all collectively agree that nothing really matters, spend our time in libraries and on-campus dining halls, not interacting with the city in any way, and study.
Contact Karim Doumar at [email protected].