Campus politicians: grow up

This past week has been a return to my roots – not my hometown, but my roots in caring about campus politics. The revelations, real outrage, faux outrage and intervening apathy has brought me back to sophomore year, a time when I cared about the needless turf warfare between open and secret factions, when my day rose and fell based on how much my friends and I were “changing campus.” We schemed and ranted and raved until our faces turned blue.

And we did change campus. And we didn’t. We kept the pressure on both the sorority and fraternity systems to integrate and have seen some of our efforts bear fruit. We drafted new recommendations for free speech and grounds use on campus and saw our voices ignored. We fought “students for experienced leadership” under all its many names and forms and lost and won and lost again.

And then we burned out. Some of us graduated, and those who stayed behind moved on to other passions that didn’t make us so miserable.

A younger crowd may sigh in disappointment at me, but I don’t lament burning out and moving on. In fact, it’s this younger crowd I fear for because we have yet to break this vicious cycle of small-time turf warfare. I move through campus and hear the same arguments I uttered two years ago: “We have to win back senate from them. SGA affects everything. We have to take them down.” And on the other side, “They don’t have the experience to run SGA. If they don’t like tradition, they can leave.” 

I watch good-hearted students of all allegiances staying up late, crying and driving themselves physically and mentally ill over this little patch of dirt – over basements that “don’t exist” and seats in a room in the Ferguson Center and executive offices and sections of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

And I can’t stop thinking to myself: grow up.

While our senators and their various above and below ground coalitions and now their respective real and at-best-questionable “watchdogs” squabble over election manuals, 34 percent of our classmates fail to graduate in six years. While SGA members and observers have Facebook fights over what some guy said to his fraternity brothers, some of our over 1,000-person strong veteran population can’t afford food and rent because the University can’t or won’t hire enough staff to process their G.I. Bill funds fast enough. (Instead, our University relies on the dedicated few staffers we have voluntarily working an obscene number of extra hours in order to see the students they care about eat.) While full merit scholarship students debate what Robert’s Rules of Order says about proxy votes, their classmates take on an average debt load of $32,000 to sit next to students who have the luxury of staying up late strategizing instead of working part-time jobs.

While SGA members discuss their duties to serve students, they overlook their duties to be honest with students and to be honest with one another. Every impact we could make on campus falls short of its full potential when we can't even trust each other enough to say what hat we're wearing on what day. Secrecy may occasionally bear positive fruit, but it will always breed mistrust.

Only one-tenth of my high school class went on to any post-secondary education, and this is what us fortunate few fight about? The University doesn’t need a war of words, nor does it need some abstract feeling of unity. It needs solutions.

It doesn’t need campus politicians who pass bills requiring students who don’t want to learn to go through Safe Zone Training. It needs student leaders who care enough about our LGBTQ community to march with them two weeks ago. I was the only SGA member there.

It doesn’t need campus politicians squabbling over their seat in a football game. It needs student leaders who understand and advocate for the physical, mental and academic health of all of its athletes. Have you asked how the partial scholarship ones are doing instead of just taking selfies with the ones who are going pro?

It doesn’t need campus politicians just raising awareness for various issues. It needs student leaders taking sometimes unpopular actions to resolve them.

It needs honesty.

Maybe the University doesn’t need campus politicians at all if this is the mettle so many of ours are made of. I know SGA senators and even more executives who have friendships across these fake aisles. I know we have talent and heart in all of the branches of our student government, but if you have talent and are currently wasting it on petty feuds, I offer you two choices: grow up, or get out of the way.

Leigh Terry is the Opinions Editor of the Crimson White. Her column runs biweekly.

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