Curing the political hangover

So, what now?

With the dawn of the new year comes the revelation that many issues that have plagued us over the course of the last year have since been settled. George W. Bush is no longer in office. Gas prices are down ‘- for now.

In Massachusetts, there’s still an income tax, marijuana was decriminalized and you can’t bet on greyhound racing anymore.

Much like what happened to many people after the shift to the new year, there is a general hangover effect of settling everything we’ve been complaining about for the last few months and years. After the heated debates and struggle on every issue that emerged in 2008, this January just seems lacking. We need a new hobby.

But what now?

The two biggest issues that remain are the war and the economy. What happens with the war remains to be seen, especially with Barack Obama’s planned closing of Guantanamo Bay suggesting a direction toward a de-escalation on the current war on terror.

In terms of the economy, though, there isn’t a whole lot we can do. You can’t really boycott the economy. Well, you can, but that’s just called living in a tent in the woods. Although the current state of the raccoon economy most likely hasn’t taken a hit from the global financial crisis, going woodsman for the economic crisis doesn’t look too promising with the new panhandling laws.

Do what now?

There is still a good deal of issues that remain on the backburner on the national stage. The debates on the drinking age, gay marriage and abortion rage on. but on a local level there’s still something lacking.

It was impossible to miss the tabling for the election, Question 2 and buzz on the campus over the slew of issues that emerged during the election. As it stands now, though, there doesn’t seem to be anything left worth making people sign things on their way to class.

The economy is the largest issue, but is a monolithic issue. Sure, you could help set up for the socialist revolution that’s apparently around the corner. But we’d probably all be better off trying to find an issue that has a chance of actually impacting anyone, like campus funding.

In case you haven’t heard, the University of Massachusetts is losing money, a lot of money. You did read the e-mails that went out to every student from the chancellor’s office, right? And you’ve been keeping tabs on the school’s financial decisions and the formation of the Budget Planning Task Force, right?

Save for the six people that went out of their way to read something that the school sent over break that didn’t require a check, everyone’s sort of in the same boat: remaining ignorant of the issue until it rears its ugly head as an increase in fees, at which point there will be cries for another strike and Gargano-esque effigies.

Unlike the past, however, there’s really not much of an excuse for not knowing what’s going on outside of indifference. In the past, there were grumblings that the administration had a tendency to keep students in the dark over what exactly was going on with the budget and student fees.

Upon his appointment, though, Chancellor Robert C. Holub has called the collective bluff of the students, taking every action to remain open about what the administration is going through and is deciding during the financial crisis. Beyond the direct e-mails from the chancellor’s office are the online resources available to understand what’s going on with the school.

It pretty much goes without saying that fees will be increasing. Even though the administration has said they would, whether or not we were actually listening remains to be seen.

Did you know that campus thermostats will be lowered universally to 67 degrees and that $1.5 million will be taken of maintenance and construction? So if you think that Herter and Bartlett are in bad shape now, they’re not going to get better any time soon.

So, what now?

Outside the student strike or imminent election, not a whole lot of campus issues have the ability to create a stir. And what the school needs right now is a stir, a commotion or even a brouhaha. The financial crisis is something that deserves attention and, if nothing less, is something that’s worth debating.

While another strike wouldn’t exactly get much accomplished, there is a need for some sort of catalyst to get the financial issue to boil over. Though it wouldn’t necessarily solve the issue, it would at least get the people listening.

Nick O’Malley is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]