All right ALANA, listen up

By Yousef Munayyer

This could be a column about how the Student Government Association is functionally challenged, or how it makes the California gubernatorial race look like an episode of the West Wing, but (sorry to let some people down) I will leave that column for a day when we can all use a good laugh. No, this column is about a related issue, the status of the ALANA caucus, which has dominated the headlines of this paper for the past week. Honestly I have mixed feelings when it comes to this issue.

I guess I have to start off by saying that I used to work with the SGA, particularly last semester when I served as Chancellor of Elections. Though it was quite an experience, I’m not going to be continuing with that position. Again, that’s the subject for another more comical column. This issue is more serious.

Reading the news stories that have developed over the past week or so, about the so-called elimination of the appointed seats, the name-calling and the rallies made me realize how much of a mess this whole thing is.

First off, I heard the argument that the appointed seats, though permitted through the by-laws were contradictory to the SGAs constitution. This makes legal sense but little sense other than that. Who writes these by-laws? The Senate, the legislative body of the SGA does.

So ladies and gentleman, here is a classic example of people not knowing what they are doing. How can the student senate, a body the students are supposed to trust with legislative power for campus issues (not to mention a 1.7 million dollar budget), write into its by-laws statutes that contradict its very constitution? It’s simply mind-boggling. And better yet, how does it go on for a period of about 10 years without being addressed until now? I’m not sure what the answer is to that one, but it has to make you wonder what the driving force behind the elimination of these appointed seats was.

Let’s get one thing straight; the idea of appointed seats to a representative body of legislature contradicts the very essence of democracy. Yet it’s important to understand more about this issue, especially because this argument about appointed seats being unconstitutional has, for the most part, flared up just now.

I spent some time at senate meetings, unfortunately, and I have been able to see into how this crazy machine works. The ALANA caucus was extremely disliked by certain members in the senate body. Not because of who they were, but because of what they stood for, which was, at times, contrary to the beliefs of the many who opposed them.

The ALANA caucus advocated diversity in the student senate. (Let’s not get into defining diversity since that has proven to be a losing initiative.) The caucus worked to voice the interests of minority students before a senate that represents a student body made up of nearly 18% minority students.

The way that the ALANA caucus was eliminated was dirty, underhanded, and probably motivated by the very thing ALANA works to fight against. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have been bad if the SGA judicial branch considered this issue, as it is their job to interpret the laws of the SGA.

I don’t agree with some of the things that ALANA advocates. For example, I myself am very critical about the affirmative action system that we have in this country, and I think it could use reform. And though on an issue like this, I might be at odds with members of the ALANA caucus, I think their presence in the senate is not only tolerable but also very necessary. Look around you. For those of you who are from Massachusetts or non-urban areas, the 18% minority figure may seem adequate, but for those coming from cities and many other places located out of this bubble we call the pioneer valley, our campus seems whiter than Chris Rock’s teeth. What ALANA does is very important, and they should not stop doing it.

Now here is my advice to ALANA. First and foremost, even though, as I have stated I disagree with some things you guys do, it’s important that you keep doing it. Never give up what you’re doing because your message is important. I’m not some fascist that would want issues like this suppressed; leave that to the Republican Club. Also, give Jared Nokes a break, he’s in a tough position, and don’t forget that the caucus was a major factor in voting for the apportionment motion that eliminated appointed seats last semester. I’m not sure what you feel Speaker Nokes’ motivation is, but focus on the fact that this attack on you has been premeditated for longer than he has been the speaker, and by individuals who did not want to see your message brought before the senate.

This is the key issue: focus on that message, not the method in which you deliver it. You don’t need those appointed seats to do it. Organize your community, get those nomination papers, and run and win the races for senate seats the democratic way. Why stop at 13%? The interests of minority students should not have some measly numerical limit. Take this all the way. You can easily have a greater presence than that if you want, and trust me, having an understanding to the student elections process, I can tell you that this would not be hard. There could be no sweeter revenge for you than to reorganize a stronger caucus than before with elected seats. They wouldn’t know what hit them.

Yousef Munnayyer is a Collegian Columnist.