We get the government we deserve

As we all fitfully tried to cram those last tidbits of information into our collective craniums for finals, an article was published in the University Press. It alleged that through semi-secret machinations, our Student Government gave itself a 25% pay raise. While this is not quite shocking, it was the reaction of the individuals involved, with attempts to censor the university’s newspaper, which calls this so-called “raise” into question.

First, let me be perfectly clear, I think that Alvira Khan is a dedicated young woman. I think that she is doing one of the most odious jobs there is, public service. She has to maintain her GPA, interface with other student organizations across the state, work long hours and get little credit. She is responsible to an electorate spread across several diverse campuses. She seems to be capable and conscientious in her duties. From what I have been able to determine, our student government officials seem to be made from the same cloth, a small, dedicated group trying to provide their constituency the best representation possible. But, as Marc Antony said, “I come here not to praise Caesar…”

Do I believe that our elected student government officers deliberately misappropriated university funds? No. Do I think that there was any “criminal malfeasance of office”? No. Are they responsible for executing this with phenomenal bad judgment? Yes. Did they overreact when they allegedly threatened to withhold university funds for our newspaper? Yes. Have they exercised their duties with all duediligence? Maybe.

The question is why they felt that such a raise was appropriate. An argument could be made that while they are busy representing us, they are unable to make a living. The 40 to 50 hours a week that they must dedicate to their positions might have given them the feeling that they were entitled to a raise.

However, had they but given those justifications, this situation would have faded into the background. The fact is that each one of these individuals took an oath, knowing full well what level of commitment was required. They should not then feel threatened when the free press challenges them about a raise, paid for with funds that should have been used for the benefit of the students. On October 8, 2004, our representatives sat down and decided for themselves the best way to use these funds. When your university press questioned them, they met with hostility, and evasion. With threats and strong arm tactics, they tried to silence the press, over supposed “issues” about ethics.

So, who are the “guilty” parties here? I would say that through their arrogance and inappropriate actions, the SGA definitely has questions to answer. I also submit that we, the electorate, must share in culpability. We should have been more circumspect of our candidates and the process, making sure that steady hands were minding the “cookie jar”.

I once read that Americans get the government they deserve. I think that is true. We elect people that we assume will get the job done. We never ask them how they will do it.