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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

ASUA address preaches to choir

Around 5 last evening, various and sundry student government members, administrators, professors and dashing members of the press congregated in the Student Union Memorial Center South Ballroom for the first annual State of the Student Address. Campus luminaries, including this organization’s editorial board, had high hopes for the event, which ASUA President Chris Nagata instated as a way to ostensibly “”provide a platform to illustrate the value of education and the necessity for a quality university experience,”” and, presumably, to give some sense of the state of the UA student.

The scene for the evening was set with crystal centerpieces filled with patriotic red-and-blue flowers, printed nametags with prim red bows, and a gold-colored raffle wheel merrily spun to the dulcet pling of live Muzak. Highlights of the evening included an interpretive dance to Van Morrison’s “”Moondance,”” as played on live saxophone, the three raffles and the complimentary fresh strawberries for the reserved attendees. What was not particularly noteworthy, however, was the speech itself. To be fair, this is the first annual event of its kind, and the existence of the event at all is an admirable move toward transparency and imitation of a real government. Nagata is a decent public speaker, thought his speech relied heavily on both the rhetoric and delivery style of President Barack Obama. But everyone who is aware of the true state of the student was expecting more out of this event that purported to “”make the message clear”” with regard to why higher education is important.

The pompous circumstance of the event was nearly the opposite of the reality for most students for whom Nagata claimed to be advocating: from the glassware, to the centerpieces, to the tiny parfaits in un-reusable containers with their own tiny plastic spoons, the self-indulgent bureaucratic unreality was more memorable than any words uttered behind the podium. The event pursued taste to the point of being distasteful. When one is advocating for more state funding to higher education, one’s argument is not helped with lush complimentary refreshments and full-color programs printed on thick cardstock detailing when, precisely, a raffle is to occur.

There was something squeamishly classist about the event: we here in our suits, with our cups of coffee, know what is best for you out there working, striving, struggling. We say the state of the student is dismal, and yet we are here with our tiny parfaits. Though this author can only dream of an expression of passion anywhere near the political upheaval of that time (that does not advocate violence), the Marie Antoinette let-them-eat-cake mentality was implicit if not explicit in the event, if not the speech. As was obvious last night, ASUA events have been impacted little by the budget shortfalls of which Nagata was so critical. (To be fair, the money used for this event is not allocated in such an direct method, but the point stands.)

As elected officials, they must try, but how well can this organization really know the reality of the state of the student when they are busy noshing complimentary cookies? Perhaps it is extreme to expect that the representative organization of the students of this university at least try to look like they are experiencing some of the same hardships as their constituents. But take note, government organizations: trays of exotic fruit and aged gouda is not the way to endear your voters or to make a convincing argument that you need more money.

Meaningless platitudes about the “”birth of knowledge”” and shiny, deliberately Technicolor portraits of “”campus success stories”” will not and did not convince anyone of the importance of anything, except perhaps of keeping a critical eye on this increasingly more absurd organization. To his credit, Nagata did start this event as the first speech of its kind at the UA. But the existence of the event can’t redeem how far away it was from what it could have been.

The items in Nagata’s speech were in the same vein as every other bleeding-heart speech on the subject of higher education in Arizona: the state does not allocate enough. The voters of Arizona do not value education enough. But as the event was delivered to a closed audience of “”university leaders”” and “”higher-education stakeholders,”” one can only wonder who, exactly, Nagata was trying to convince. Every member of the attending audience is already keenly aware of the reality of funding to higher education in Arizona. If the State of the Student Address is to be, as we hope, more than a self-pleasuring moment for ASUA — who already seem quite pleased with themselves — Nagata is going to need to preach to someone other than the choir.

— Anna Swenson is a sophomore majoring in English.

She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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