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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Politically charged video raises doubts about Arizona Students’ Association

    ASA does a lot of good by advocating for the university’s students, but despite all their political involvement, the organization claims nonpartisanship at all times.

    When the Arizona Students’ Association fails to remain nonpartisan, it risks alienating some students and devaluing its mission. At a kickoff event last Wednesday, ASA took that risk.
    Watching a YouTube video about the history of voting in the United States may not seem like the politically charged rhetoric that often divides students, but the video shown at the kickoff had subtle biases that could be misinterpreted as stances held by ASA.

    The video, “History of voting!” starts off with celebrity personalities explaining issues that range from the American Revolutionary War, all the way to women’s suffrage in a seemingly innocent fashion. The video spends this time building a level of trust with the viewer, using colorful animation and upbeat narration to its advantage.

    Then, around the 2:50 mark, the video shifts. It’s not immediately apparent, but the filmmakers make some interesting choices.

    It starts by establishing the difference between bad and good voting decisions — such as choosing to go to war versus staying at peace, keeping money in Wall Street or giving it to schools for education, and pollution versus clean energy — by placing pictures of “bad” choices on the left side of the screen and “good” choices on the right.

    Using the same format of bad choice on the left and good choice on the right, “Glee” star Darren Criss begins talking about more issues voters have to choose from — issues like gay marriage, abortion, gun ownership and the legalization of marijuana.

    Opposition to gay marriage, anti-abortion sentiments, pro-gun ownership and anti-legalization all end up on the left while the opposite, “correct” views end up on the right. To drive the point home, the left views are color-coded red (for the Republican Party) and the right gets blue (for the Democratic Party).

    It’s pretty obvious the video is nudging the viewers toward a certain end of the political spectrum. Although the video was not produced by ASA, and ASA did not explicitly encourage kickoff attendees to vote in a particular way, attendees didn’t necessarily know that, and neither does anyone else looking at the situation from the outside.

    ASA can’t afford to make such statements, even accidentally, especially considering the recent allegations of fund mismanagement levied at the organization by former student body presidents of Arizona State University and an investigative report from the Goldwater Institute. Granted, these allegations are still under investigation and the situation isn’t entirely clear, but the controversy isn’t helping ASA’s image.

    Amid such problems, ASA has to pay attention to the little things in order to show that the organization still represents everything it’s supposed to stand for.

    Jordan King, ASA vice chairman of the board of directors and chairman of internal affairs, said he doesn’t feel the video presents enough of a politically biased message to warrant concern.

    “I can see where the idea for controversy comes from, but the way I see it, our political system is filled with controversy,” King said of the video.

    “I don’t believe that anyone, especially when talking about voter registration, can remain completely non-controversial. In a time where students are not exercising their rights to vote, it is important that we take the proper steps to give them the opportunity to share their opinions at a national and local level.”

    It’s a fair point, and according to King, the video was used primarily for its extensive history of voting in America — not to promote any views in particular.

    That may be the case, but in the end ASA will be judged by those outside the organization for what it does. ASA may have seemingly bigger issues to handle first, but they need to avoid all missteps big and small. Maintaining its staunchly nonpartisan stance is a necessity at all times, especially in times like today.

    — Jason Krell is the copy chief for the Arizona Daily Wildcat. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @Jason_Krell.

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