There’s a lot of talk these days about a lack of personal responsibility among politicians, “talk” being the key word.
Like most things in politics, accountability doesn’t mean much besides rhetoric. Personal responsibility has become a platform plank used by the elected to retain employment.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, therefore, to find that USF’s Student Government views responsibility as an albatross to be avoided at all costs. Ideally, SG mirrors the governmental experiences through elections, branches of government, checks and balances, statutory rules and a constitution.
SG also recreates the governmental experience through mutual backscratching, a total evasion of responsibility and a lack of comeuppance to boot. This does not apply to everyone involved in SG, of course. Unfortunately for those good apples, there are very notable examples of SG politicians behaving badly.
Take for example the shameful concert debacle. After four votes and a vehement endorsement by student body President Maxon Victor, the approximately $24,500 concert (funded out of students’ A &S fees) finally happened, and included an appearance by Classified, the band Victor is in. Victor’s response to allegations that he acted unethically is, “It was in no fashion or form or request on my part to be a part of the show.”
Victor’s excuse was enough to satisfy senator Randy Holm, who was put in charge of the investigation into Victor’s misconduct. Holm asserted, “…basically (the Greek Week Committee) came to him,” as justification for concluding that Victor had not acted unethically.
The fact that the Greek Week Committee asked his band to appear is irrelevant in the arena of public opinion. The level of perceived impropriety involved in the concert appearance is scandalous. Though Classified did not receive compensation for its performance, Victor has endangered the reputation of the seat he holds through a wanton act of unenlightened self-interest. Victor has left USF and its student government with a tarnished dynasty. It is this wound to the integrity of the office which Victor’s successor and SG as a whole must work to heal.
Healing such a wound and re-establishing the trust so egregiously betrayed will not be an easy job. Frank Harrison’s status as president-elect is none too certain. The SG Supreme Court has declared Harrison’s election null and void; the Election Rules Commission has certified the results of the vote, effectively declaring Harrison student body president. Student Affairs has gotten involved and will help arbitrate the matter. Despite this, Harrison is quick to dismiss the issue. He calls the Court’s decision illegitimate and says the elections were no more controversial then they have been in the past. Harrison has asserted that controversy is inherent to a body like SG. His response is similar to Victor’s excuse – both entirely irrelevant.
The inherent tumultuousness of SG and the controversy in elections past are not the issues at hand. The contention lies in whether the ERC violated its own statutes and showed bias toward Harrison’s ticket. Regardless of the multiple attempts by Harrison to distract with irrelevancies, the issue is quite clear.
Given this approach to the elections problem, it is understandably difficult for students to believe Harrison when he expresses desire for more student involvement with SG.
By being dismissive of the serious discussion now taking place regarding his election, Harrison has already shown a disdain for publicity portraying him in a negative light. In doing so, he is marginalizing the safeguards enacted in order to keep elections fair. Although this response is not as frivolous as Victor’s, whose band tore up copies of the Oracle on stage in retaliation to the publicity Victor received regarding the concert affair, it is still not ideal.
These students were elected to represent the best traditions of USF. If Harrison genuinely intends to bring about student participation in SG, it will have to include mature, serious responses to news about his administration, which may not be complimentary.
Jordan Capobianco is a senior majoring in English literature.