The Arizona Desert Lamp

The Erevnocracy in Action

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 5 February 2009

Survey-ocracy“Erevnocracy,” meaning rule by survey, is a painful collision between the modern Greek word for survey (έρευνα, or erevna) and the suffix -cracy, derived from the ancient Greek kratein (“to rule”). This insult to the legacy of Socrates was chosen over such alternatives as “Luntzian Republic,” “Gallupstasia,” and “The Census State.” Neologists, have at it.

Anyways, the erevnocracy continues forward with the second edition of “How Do You Want Your Student Services Fee Spent?” In case you’ve forgotten why rule-by-survey is so repugnant, I’ll quote at length from a previous post:

1. These surveys are conducted by professional pollsters with experts and money at their disposal. Suffice to say, ASUA is not contracting Rasmussen to poll the student body. Instead, the polls used are fraught with basic statistical errors, leading to huge amounts of selection bias (in voluntary polls, people in support of a given proposal are far more likely to participate than those who are not) and a failure to obtain a representative sample of the student body, a lack of a statistical confidence calculation, and poor question formulation. An online poll does not a legitimate survey make.

2. ASUA itself is conducting the polls. This is akin to the Treasury Department conducting its own survey on the bailout plan; clearly, they have a vested interest in making sure the poll shows support for their position. So with the ASUA Senate; Sen. Baker has a vested interest in making sure his camera policy is enacted, and thus will in all likelihood have questions biased towards his opinion. The ASUA [in this case, along with the Office of Student Affairs and GPSC – EML] as a whole had a vested interest in getting the student fee increase.

Ideally, these polls would be conducted through the statistics department, as an instructor-supervised project that would teach students how to properly conduct a survey and provide statistical analysis,  while at the same time providing ASUA with far more reasonable polling results. Call the Arizona Research Center for Campus, or something. For now, however, the student government is conducting its own polls through classroom technology; ever poll result trotted out as showing support should be taken with a very large grain of salt.

Furthermore, it’s worth remembering why these organizations opt for the survey — because, were these proposed spending programs to go straight to ballot initiative, they would fail, as the Student Affairs Fee did. That fee was sneakily forced through these kind of surveys, as these “popular” programs have been. Lies, damn lies, and statistics, indeed.

Let me provide a new example from the national scene  — a recent Rasmussen poll has shown that only 37% of Americans support the stimulus package, and 43% are opposed. Now, I’m as tickled as anyone to see the American public embracing the economic views of Luigi Zingales, Bryan Caplan, and the Cato 200+. But economic policy really shouldn’t be driven by day to day opinions of John Q. Public. Knowing the sentiments of Americans helps — it is a reminder to this country’s representatives that we still value our freedom. But the point of a representative government is to have the best men and women make the decisions, including the unpopular ones that are in the country’s best interest (in their view, obviously).

I. The first part of the survey deals with the past allocations of the SSF. Naturally, I responded “very dissatisfied” to all of them.

1. Welfare Wednesdays. I really don’t have much to say about this outside of what Connor has already said. In the comments, the program is described as “wildly popular,” but if popularity is what we seek, then $250,000 divided by about $70 per keg of Keystone gets us 3,571 kegs — more than enough for a campus-wide bacchanal. Aspiring ASUA candidates, take note. Connor also mentions Cafe Sonora, but I’m less concerned about the money going to this university-sponsored corporation than to Chic-fil-A. You’d think is something SHAC could fight against (SHAC-attack!), but they’re too busy getting even more of your fee money to notice.

2. Safe Ride Expansion. Or, as the same commentor refers to it, “The Official Designated Driver for your Kegger/Mixer/Frat Party/Other Social Gathering Used As An Excuse To Get Inebriated.” Given Eller’s lack of Friday classes, you do have to wonder why the service is open on Thursday nights. Safe Ride is one of those services that probably should exist, but in far smaller form.

3. Security. Or, more specifically, “Funds allocated toward crisis & safety programs.” What does this mean? What programs? In what amounts? To what end? Simply ‘allocating funds’ means nothing insofar as actually improvements are concerned, and as far as I can tell the perception of an unsafe campus remains. No other campus issue is subjected to such a divorce from rhetoric and action than safety.

4. Student Union additions — seats, computers, etc. I’m no fan, but as a matter of policy shouldn’t computers be provided by the “Information Services” fee?

5. GPSC bribe money. Seriously — “Funds allocated to GPSC for graduate student travel, conferences, and professional development opportunities.” Remember, this is a fee paid by both undergraduates and graduates. Loath as I am to invoke vulgar Marxism, this really is exploitation.

6. Jobs. Maybe — “funds were allocated” to this purpose, but the survey coyly refuses to mention how many jobs the Fee is responsible for. A portion of this spending was allocated to “meet increased minimum wage for student positions.” Thanks, Congress!

II. These “accomplishments” out of the way, the survey now proposes new spending. I naturally indicated my lack of interest, since I really would rather that none of the money be spent.

1. Subsidy Saturday? Food Stamp Friday? Proposals for dining include expanding the $3 lunch special to 2 days per week, along with the usual pabulum about low prices, healthy options, and variety. Can’t we arrange for the Mexican food stands that camp out in S. Tucson parking lots to set up shop on the Mall?

2. To explain this next one, relating to Safe Ride, I need to explain the format of this part of the survey. Each question contains a bold, broad goal, below which is a parenthetical describing potential spending. Thus, we have:

Extended hours, expanded boundaries, and improved response time for Safe Ride.

(Continue to maintain current support of Safe Ride, assist funding of Safe Walk program.)

So, under the aegis of “expanding” Safe Ride, the fee would in fact maintain the current funding, while spending more on the rightly-derided Safe Walk. To be blunt, study with friends if walking home from the library at night is a situation. If you’re really desperate, I’m willing to walk with anyone for a flat $10 fee.

3. Safety. More blue lights, or something. “”Funds allocated toward crisis & safety programs” are the inevitable result.

4. Union Improvements. More seats, “program enhancements” in the Cellar (?), better audio/light systems, and Cactus being kept open on the weekends. Incidentally, who comes up with these ideas? Given the failure of the town hall, these must either must result from a groundswell of email to ASUA officials (which would be odd, since said officials never seize on the opportunity to trumpet this public engagement), or they’re dreamed up during office hours.

5. Grad Student Bribes. Again, more to placate the GPSC. Yet there are also inclusions for “national tournaments” and “on-campus conferences” — which is odd, because you would think that such conferences would be discounted heavily for UA students.

6. More Jobs. Less specificity.

7. Safety, part II. So maybe that first one wasn’t blue lights, since this proposal also calls for more blue lights, more self-defense classes, and an anonymous Safety line (isn’t that called 311?)

8. Social Justice expansion. ARGH. “Support of: EQUISS – 3 day social justice retreat, Heritage Months, Hunger Banquet, Social Justice Programs, Social Justice Film Series, and general multicultural issues and initiatives.” Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Can these programs just go away?

9. Sustainable Stuff. I’m starting to feel like I’m live-blogging the stimulus bill.

10. Increased tutoring and mentoring.

11. Increased childcare funding. (Funding for “child-friendly events, activities and learning opportunities,” Family Weekend [?!?!?!!! – EML], KidzKorner, lactation stations, and non-traditional student awareness programs.)

This cannot possibly be the same Family Weekend that inspires so many Greek Life t-shirts.

12. Increased technology funding. More computer labs. Use OrgSync. “Involvement Web Portal.” Podcasts of UA-services, events, and programs (how can podcasts cost anything? You already have the cameras — just set them up, and you’re good to go). “CatCard swipe access to special events. “ASA accessible gaming.”

Seriously — “ASA accessible gaming.” I’m all about basic accessibility measures, but I have trouble believing that there ever exists a “right to an arcade.”

13. Faculty-Student programs — “Speaker Series, Wildcat Welcome, Lunch with Faculty program, and Club Advising.”

14. Health and Wellness — “Free health screenings; programs and initiatives for better healthy eating options.” Programs include: “Safe Spring Break, alcohol free late night programs, Rec Center wellness initiatives, Olympian health program, alcohol intervention and awareness initiatives, HIV testing and sex ed programs.”

Incidentally, what is with school-sponsored programs implictly encouraging sex but spending money to prevent drinking? Shorter question: where are my Doublechaser pills?

15. “Funding for enhanced programming for various campus populations.”

(Veterans, Transfer Students, Fraternities & Sororities, Commuter Students, Students with Disabilities, Women’s Initiatives, Cultural Centers, LGBTQ, and Non-Traditional Students)

—-

There’s a lot to digest there, but even a brief summary does not look pretty. Naturally, there was no option for reducing funding, or to submit an opinion about how much these fees should be. Just “your” government in action.

Election 2008: Battle for the Cellar

Posted in Campus, Culture by Connor Mendenhall on 3 December 2008

Excited to cast a ballot in a nugatory campuswide election between three insipid candidates? If so, you’re in luck—thanks to Arizona Student Unions, you won’t have to wait until student government elections this spring!

In a contest sure to appeal to lovers of local democracy and carbon-neutral organic quinoa, the restaurant formerly known as the “Cellar” is submitting its new name and logo to the will of the people. Formerly a purveyor of bacon cheeseburgers, breakfast burritos, and Oreo milkshakes, the restaurant’s menu has been “infused with more healthy options,” like “organic grass-fed burgers,” “bistro egg burritos,” and “hand spun milkshakes.” (The last because, as any local-foodie worth his salt knows, blood, sweat, toil, and tears are directly proportional to nutrition).

They’ve also added a smorgasbord of stuff white people like: “honey mustard grilled wild salmon, apricot chipotle glazed wild salmon, coconut curry shrimp, Thai red curry grilled chicken, blackened tilapia, prickly pear grilled chicken, turkey and veggie burgers, a grilled Portobello mushroom sandwich, quinoa and potato salads and boba teas.”

Bobo tea might be more appropriate, but I must admit that parts of the new menu are more appealing than the old greasy fare. And though I don’t care much about limiting my radish radix radius, it looks like the changes do give students more meal options, which I can get behind.

So what of the election? In the interest of an informed studentry, here’s a brief analysis of the name contenders:

greenlg_vert

Green Underground Eats:  With edgy typography, Cthulhic tendrils, and the hip use of “eats” as a noun, this candidate is the most radical departure from “Cellar Restaurant.” The term “underground” recalls not just the restaurant’s physical location, but a certain subversive chic. “Green,” of course, is a catch-all appendage for the environmentally conscious. A clear attempt both to convey a message of change and to appear relevant to young voters.

frescolg_horizFresco Honest Eats: A playful but wholesome font; a name and logo evoking the dappled play of summer sunshine across a jumping castle in the Italian countryside. The word “honest” carries a subtle but powerful implicit value judgement, leading us to wonder: how much do we really know about Green Underground Eats’ radical past? Here we again see “eats” employed as a noun, but recontextualized amid “fresco” and “honest,” the term takes on a folksy flair. Fresco is hardworking and energetic, plain-spoken and good-natured. In short, a hockey mom.

bistro_0lg_horiz

Cellar Bistro: The only candidate to retain a vestige of the old “Cellar Restaurant,” Cellar Bistro pays its respects to tradition, but offers a bold update to an old heritage. The word “restaurant” (from Fr. restaurer, lit. ‘restore to a former state’) was first used in Paris in 1765. The word “bistro” also originated in Paris, but not until the early 1920s. Here, “bistro” is a bridge between the rational scientific-innovative spirit of the Enlightenment and the world of the Modern—crucially, a period of the Modern after the indictment of these very values in the Great War. It is at once a call to return to the rudiments of our shared Western history and, especially as evidenced by its organic, primitive (yet humanist!) script, a repudiation of artificial ideology in favor of a more natural pragmatism.

Now go forth, dear readers, and vote! After all, if you don’t voice your preference for one of these three inspired identities, you can’t complain when our grand Democratic Process spits out a stupid one.