The Arizona Desert Lamp

Myth Busting: “Awareness”

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 3 March 2009

I am aware of all ASUA traditionsYou, fair citizen, are an unaware ignoramus. Don’t take it from me, though; just listen to some of your Senate candidates:

The resources offered by ASUA are such beneficial tools to students, however, many students do not know of their availability. I would like to see ASUA get better involved with the new freshmen so that the perspective of ASUA can change.

ASUA offers so many beneficial university programs and services, and very few students actually know what ASUA does and what ASUA offers.

Usually, candidates avoid spelling out the logic behind “awareness”; instead, they prefer to scatter the phrase like pixie dust through their campaign statements, a word like “sustainable,” “diversity” or “unity” (curiously, the three campaign platforms of Ms. Bratt) endowed with a sort of student government kotodama.

Yet such platforms make the assumption that a lack of participation derives only from a lack of knowledge; and thus, if everyone knew about ASUA, then participation would fly through the roof, and unicorns and rainbows would forever waltz around the third floor of the SUMC. Citing a need to ‘increase awareness’ serves as an easy answer to a very serious problem facing ASUA: a general ennui towards the institution from the student body, a listless attitude that’s occassionally delivered with a sneer.

Suggesting that this attitude derives only from being “unaware” is not only begging the question, but is a bit slighting. The writers at this site have been quite critical of various ASUA initiatives, but I would like to think that it does not come from ignorance; in fact, disdain often rises with knowledge. More importantly, though, it requires us to assume that the only problem with ASUA currently is the fact that nobody knows about it. Rather than looking inward, and trying to reform what currently stands, this attitude assumes that everything is quite alright, and will choose instead to focus on media blitzes and other “GET EXCITED!!!!” campaigns.

These “awareness” campaigns are often introduced with an anecdote. “I had no idea that [insert program here] even existed!” Ergo, nobody knows? Or perhaps nobody cares – if you don’t get in legal trouble, you don’t need to be “aware” of Legal Services. If you feel safe at night, you don’t need to be aware of SafeRide. Students who loathe the concept of “social justice” are better off not being aware of that program’s existence, if only for health reasons.

Let us point out that this is not necessarily a bad thing. An apathetic polity is in many ways a successful polity; that is, they don’t feel that the standing order will come crashing down with the election of either candidate. Citizens in more strife-ridden countries simply can’t afford to be apathetic. Low turnout is a far preferable to armed revolutions every few years or so.

So what about those students who really do want these ASUA programs? Boldly, I will assert that the average college student is not an idiot when it comes to that student’s self-interest.  Can we reasonably believe that a student interested in women’s issues would not come across the Women’s Resource Center on his/her own accord? Is it so absurd to assert that a student in legal trouble will, at one point or another, find out about Legal Services?

Rather than assuming idiocy, ASUA might want to consider that far more daunting thesis; namely, that outside of its offices on the third floor, ASUA is actually not that popular, or well-liked, for reasons that have nothing to do with information asymmetries. Until serious reconsideration of ASUA as a whole becomes a phenomenon, expect business to continue as normal.

To understand the abject geekery behind this post’s picture, read here.

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3 Responses

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  1. Dave said, on 3 March 2009 at 7:52 pm

    If anything ASUA should strive for less awareness. At least then they would have some cool shadow government thing going on.

  2. […] strong community organizers (or. perhaps, linguistics professors). Thus, the red tag, the ‘awareness‘, and state-approved protests against . . . the state. So we wander, in state of delirium […]

  3. […] there is anything that UA students are aware of, it’s alcohol. Nevertheless, CSIL wants to bring a firm (attention, Wildcat!) to provide […]


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