Support active, engaged campusBy Rich Robinson | 04/14/2014 11:00pm
Allow me a mulligan, a trip down the rabbit hole of over-serious campus politics for just a second. But first, a disclaimer: Students at The University of Alabama have infinitely more rights and privileges than those who dot the lands of despotic regimes and failed states. It’s hard to compare the crackdown of a Quad rendition of a silly web meme to Tiananmen Square or to the outrages that have recently menaced Venezuela, Egypt and Turkey.
A silly policy regarding grounds use is not the same as the Russian government (led by a former KGB agent) destroying a free and independent press through thuggery, intimidation and a hijacked judicial branch. A deeply flawed and fully underwhelming elections process is not comparable to the flagrant disregard for democratic ideals that Robert Mugabe has in Zimbabwe (who lost the first round of voting in the 2008 presidential election but used violence to force his leading opponent out of the race) or that Viktor Yanukovych had in Ukraine by jailing his main rival. In the end, we have tremendous avenues to advance, grow and develop in relative peace and security.
Now about that rabbit hole. A month has passed since the SGA election, which saw the status quo codified for another year. Voter turnout was anemic, and the campaign was boring and lacked substance. A candidate who admitted to elections fraud was allowed to stay in office with a slap on the wrist, and the previous SGA Senate refused to pass a slam-dunk of a resolution from Katie Smith calling for increased integration of the Greek system.
But it’s not all bad news. We’ve seen a proliferation of citizen activism rock this campus in ways big and small. From the vibrant and smartly focused SODEL group to the flashes of brilliance from UA Stands in the fall, students are starting to organize in greater numbers and find a more collective voice. While stronger leadership needs to be cultivated among the independent ranks of the University, this development is still promising. So is the thriving student media of the Capstone. In the void of regular protests or a muscular student government, student media has been forced to stand up and serve as a more active participant in adjudicating wrongs in the public sphere of campus.
This paper is the best example of that reality, as its coverage of continued segregation in the Greek system has led to real reforms that have bettered our University by fighting the blight of quiet racism. For the first time in many years, student radio is also serving as a source of public accountability. WVUA-FM’s Capstone News Now led the charge to investigate allegations in the elections and is committed to uncovering corruption across campus. Other groups outside of mainstream campus media are clambering for dialogue like Mallet TV. This is a good sign of things to come, as is the continued existence of the United Alabama Project – the closest thing to an NGO that this campus has.
In the meantime, Hamilton Bloom has the potential to be a good leader in the vein of Matt Calderone – a Machine politician with crossover appeal. Bloom’s first real expenditure of political capital was to push through a watered down version of Smith’s resolution, a good first step to be sure.
But for real and long-lasting change to come, we need to embrace and foster the development of outside-the-box thinkers. For equal opportunity to truly envelop campus, we need a more active and engaged electorate and civil society. For true change to come, we need to recruit people who want to build and create a new reality on campus. We need to stop asking about what the University will do for us and find the way we can make Alabama better. You are remembered in life for your contributions, not your apathy. Make your college experience something worth remembering. It’s just boring otherwise.
Rich Robinson is a junior majoring in telecommunication and film. He is also the news director for WVUA-FM.