Editors note: Benjamin Jarvela’s Rambling Fool appears every Thursday in The Maine Campus. The views expressed in his column in no way reflect the views or opinions of The Maine Campus Editoral staff.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this week, I have to make a disclaimer. I’m not on the staff of The Maine Campus, per se. At best, I’m a contributor, which means that anything I say here, ever, is in no way the official stance of the paper and shouldn’t be construed as anything beyond my (and the right) opinion.
That being said:
Residents on Campus and General Student Senate are doing sit-ups under parked cars. I’ve been pretty nice to both groups in the past (at least by not directly calling them out) but recent actions by both organizations demand a further examination.
If you’re reading this, then you’ve no doubt heard about the recent ongoing struggle between both of those organizations and The Maine Campus. ROC has been half-assing it’s way through, well, everything, but more specifically a recent call to impeach its acting president, Adam Kirkland. That sounds a lot more impressive than it actually is. Read into the story and you’ll find out the whole movement was started by the combined effort of the Aroostook and Oak Hall Governing Boards.
Side note: I’ve been an HGB president and vice president. I don’t have anything to do with either anymore because, quite frankly, HGBs are some of the most ineffectual wastes of time I’ve ever seen.
All right. I can buy off on that much so far. It’s organizational business and obviously the people who initiated the whole movement thought they had good reason in doing so. No problems so far.
Naturally, the student paper sends people to observe this student organization conduct some student business on behalf of . wait for it . students. Anyone else see a pattern here?
The problems started when, for some reason I haven’t been able to determine, ROC decided it gets to conduct student business or handle student money in secret. In an effort to keep this short, I’m going to skip ahead here. The story is out there if anyone needs more background information.
ROC – Grow Up. You’re not important. You’re not cool. You’re conducting student business with student money and we have every right in the world to know every time any of you so much makes a motion to acknowledge a fart (seconded!). Robert’s Rules of Order are guidelines and attempting to hide behind them is ridiculous. Imagine if Enron or Tyco tried that. Whatever “bylaws” and rules you have in place are there simply because the student population at this school allows you to have them. We hold the authority here, not you. The more this story continues, the more it becomes painfully obvious that very few of the people involved with ROC have any idea what they’re doing or anything closely resembling an ounce of common sense. It is well within the scope of possibility and student population authority to demand access to anything you do and, as a result, I recommend that the rest of the student population demand the following:
1. Put ROC membership up to a vote in a special election, with the intent on rebuilding its membership from scratch. It’s obvious that most of those involved have become so warped with a self-inflicted sense of importance that it’s becoming impossible for any of them to get their jobs done in either an effective or timely manner. We put them there and we can take them out.
2. Publish the entire constitution of ROC and allow the student population to vote on any and all proposed changes. This organization should not be allowed to hide behind its own rules as long as they are charged with conducting business on behalf of the student population using one cent of our money. The primary change should involved making all ROC actions and meetings 100 percent open to the public at all times, regardless of what business is currently being conducted.
Anne Marie Reed – as the ROC adviser, I can’t think of any way that she could have possibly handled this worse. This woman is supposed to be a professional. She’s supposed to know what she’s doing. Ignoring the fact she’s “advising” a group that’s superfluous and largely redundant, she is obviously extremely biased and is unfamiliar with the basic tenets of the group she is overseeing. The following is a direct quote:
“We are not a state organization. State laws do not apply to us.”
Are you serious? How can a rational person say this with a straight face? Guess what, Mrs. Reed? The law applies to everyone. McDonald’s isn’t a state organization. Does that mean they don’t have to follow state health codes? I’m not a state organization (hell, I’m not even a state resident). Does that mean the laws of Maine are null and void as far as I’m concerned?
Of course, all of this is assuming that what you said is correct. I have a hard time believing that ROC doesn’t qualify as a state organization (what with this being a public school and all . fancy that). Even if this is absolutely true in the full sense of the term, who funds it? Who are the “shareholders?” If you said, “Well, probably the students,” then I think you’re starting to catch on.
Oh – one last thing concerning Reed. As a group adviser, shouldn’t it be her that’s advising the students, not the other way around. Another direct quote from the story covering this: “Reed ended her request (for Campus staff to leave the meeting) upon consultation with (ROC vice-president Tripp), who informed her a vote was needed to ask all non-members to leave.” As “adviser,” isn’t this the sort of thing she should be expected to know? Mrs. Reed, due to your apparent ignorance concerning public policy, law, and the rights of student media, I believe you should seriously consider terminating your relationship with ROC in an advisory capacity. It would definitely be in the best interest of the student population as a whole.
GSS – I’ve been pretty quite in the past concerning student government. Sure, they screw it from time to time (last year’s election was a pretty good example), but this is a learning process for them. At least, that’s what I believed up until about a week ago.
It’s become apparent, however, that many of the individuals (many, not all) are so impressed with the notion of being able to call themselves “senators” that they’ve absolutely forgotten the most important aspect of their work – serving the student population.
Take the recent activity with the German Club, for example. Now, I’m not a big fan of the way in which Robert Wright decided to call out the student government. It was largely unprovoked and turned into little more than a personal vendetta-based pissing contest pretty quickly. However, given the recent situation, it seems that while the way he chose to spread his message may not have been the most productive, his core idea may have been on to something.
The mass communication department teaches CMJ 211, “History of Mass Media.” A large portion of the course is spent examining the rights and history of student media, even locally here at UMaine. It’s becoming obvious that most of our student “senators” would benefit greatly from this class. It seems that few, if any of them, have any concept about the rights and responsibilities of any form of media, much less a student-run one like the Campus.
ROC, just like the GSS, is spending student money. We have an inherent right to know – at all times – just what they’re up to. A startling number of those connected to our student government are paid for their “work,” but at the same time will freely go on record stating they don’t really believe in things like free speech when it’s not convenient to their purposes.
Listen – I’ve had the distinct privilege of seeing the American Civil Liberties Union in action before. It’s not pretty. They eat people like student “senators” alive for sport. The Maine Campus and its actual staff don’t owe you, GS, or ROC any kind of apology. They are charged with informing the student population, almost primarily, with what you and your cronies are up to and they were simply doing their jobs. You are wasting the time and money of every student of this University with action like this.
We, the students of UMaine, are your bosses – not the other way around. If ROC or Student Government in any form attempts actual legal action against the Maine Campus for anything in relation to this incident, I will personally file for assistance from the ACLU on behalf of the Campus, not to mention the other dozen or so civil liberties groups I’m familiar with that specialize in things like student media. If you’re unfamiliar with the track record of such cases, I suggest you study up before you decide to go any further (psst . it’s completely one-sided in favor of the media).
The possibility of a public debate on all of this on WMEB, the campus radio station, has been mentioned. Let me publicly extend an invitation to all concerned parties to do so. I can arrange it very quickly and will be more than happy to host and moderate such an event. If either ROC or the GSS wishes to defend themselves, I suggest you do it there.
ROC and members of the GSS have proven to us all they are more concerned with petty rule mongering, self-preservation, and settling personal vendettas through their official capacities than they are with doing their jobs. It is time that we, as a student population, demand more from the people we give these positions to and are often paying them for.