09 December 2017

Unions and Tuition

Having worked in student life at both US and Canadian schools, one thing that has long bothered me is how much administration and bureaucracy plagues student affairs at American institutions of higher learning.

At McGill, the student union was run... by STUDENTS. It was a true student union, not a legion of university officials policing what student orgs could and could not do on our campus. The Students' Society of McGill University leased its union from the university, voted to rename it the William Shatner Student Center (much to the chagrin of McGill officials), oversaw operations/maintenance, financed itself via levies for which it campaigned and collected from students' fees, funded organizations, set event guidelines, enforced alcohol policies, ran its own food services and its own bar, etc.

Contrast this to Wright State, who hamstrung its student orgs by enforcing onerous event planning rules, mandating unaffordable security measures, granting precious STUDENT union space to faculty departments, forcing orgs to pay for Sodexho catering at a hefty premium over local businesses, and prohibiting alcohol for "liability reasons." All while permitting carte blanche for faculty departments that weren't beholden to the same scrutiny as student orgs.

Imagine how much savings is possible in American universities by returning student unions to the students, and empowering student governments to exercise direct ownership/control over student unions, rather than merely serving as advisory boards to university administrations that don't trust students enough to run our own unions.

27 November 2017

Banned on Facebook in the USA

This past Thanksgiving, I made the provocative posting, “Happy ‘Don’t Trust White People’ Day!!!” As a result of a ‘report’ by a peer of mine in Facebook-land, my post had been swiftly stricken down and deleted from record. I was banned from posting or reacting to anything on Facebook for a period of 24-48 hours.

In an unrelated (but nonetheless awesome) twist of karma, I received a nice phone call from an editor of The Columbus Dispatch, following up on a letter I had written regarding simple electoral reform in Ohio. They were agreeing to post what was basically a copy-and-paste job of a Facebook rant I had made previously, regarding simple things on which Americans can agree in American politics.

It was ironic to me that, during a time of national outcry over a myriad of impactful issues (e.g. tax reform, net neutrality, foreign election propaganda), our local newspapers are not being utilized by We The People fully to their best extent. Instead, we continue as concerned citizens to scream into an empty echo chamber, marketed to us as a way to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Meanwhile, our generation continues to absorb “alternative facts” and drivel spun by fellow keyboard warriors and despotic regimes alike, while homegrown local newspapers continue their decline into cultural and financial irrelevance.

As part of a younger generation still struggling to define itself among the noise of a hyperbolic media world in the United States, I can’t understand why We The People allow the media titans in Facebook, NYTimes, et al. continue to paint us with their partisan labels, while robust debate and simple consensus on basic solutions to today’s problems continue to wither away in the dustbins of today’s digital age. I implore fellow Ohioans and Americans to challenge the conversation with which we’ve become so exasperated, in order to forge a new brand of American politics that transcends top-down divisions and serves to grow our democracy in a positive and inclusive manner. When We The People stand up to reclaim the stage, we enable the essence of what Makes America Great.