Things To Act
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
What the [Expletive Deleted] Does BYUSA DO, Anyway?
It's that dreaded time of year again: BYUSA Elections 2003.

A quick glance at each of the candidates' platforms is rather depressing. We not only get bad grammar and empty rhetoric, but the content of the ideas--presumably the most important issue--is particularly banal. I intentionally discount experience and character because, due to the institutional setup at BYU, the vast majority of the student body is not equipped to judge either qualification of any candidate. Ideas, on the other hand, can be a valuable sorting device, in that candidates who propose clearly stupid ideas can be voted down, while candidates who propose intriguing ideas may be worth voting for (the fact that virtually all such ideas will not be implemented is of course irrelevant--that's part of the fun).

So looking at the ideas:

*Marriott Center Concerts. Who the [expletive deleted] cares? Why would concerts for pure entertainment (as opposed to the many excellent educational or religious concerts offered throughout the year in the HFAC) be a university function, anyway?

*Athletics stuff (various nonspecific proposals lumped together). Again, what does this have to do with the main mission of the university? While athletics can be an entertaining small portion of the university experience, there are many issues which are far more important. In any event, the lack of specificity here makes it difficult for me to care.

*Students on University Committees. What exactly does this mean? Which committees, and what do they do? If this is such a great idea, why does it take a BYUSA officer to suggest it? Who would pick which students would serve, and what would their role be? I suspect that the average student knows so little about the administration of the university that he finds it impossible to competently evaluate this proposal--and no candidate who discusses it attempts to make the issues clearer.

*Mentored Learning. We've heard a lot from the real administration about this. Again, I'm not seeing how BYUSA can make a difference (particularly given that the fundamental problem will continue to be too many students, not enough mentors until we significantly either lower admissions or raise faculty hires--neither of which strikes me as terribly likely any time soon).

*Increased Involvement. Apparently with on-campus clubs. How, pray tell? There's no shortage of clubs with missions from noble to inane. Many, being run by inexperienced students, are rather ineffective. Others may have more potential. Regardless, the central 'problem' here seems to be that most students don't consider it worth their time, and given competing demands (academic, financial, ecclesiastical, etc), the basic apathy toward clubs seems fairly fixed. I think it would be good to try to build greater social capital and a greater sense of campus community--but unless it's tied to one of the higher-priority factors, I don't see it happening anytime soon. An approach encouraging majors to develop and encourage more extracurricular opportunities specific to the major might have potential--but anything going through BYUSA strikes me as doomed from the start.

*Booting. Don't park illegally. Problem solved. Anything that comes accross as whining will have great difficulty attracting my sympathy. [Booting in my area is straightforward--if you park in the commercial lot next door, you'll likely get booted. Anyone in the complex should be able to tell you that, and, though I think said establishment is dumb to be so rigid (booting between 1 and 5 AM, for instance), they're within their rights, and illegal parkers are not].

While none of these ideas is so stupid as to be worth voting against on the spot, none is particularly interesting either. Ultimately, the problem with any student body election platform is that the real decisions are all made elsewhere, and BYUSA doesn't even pretend to be broadly representative, as far as I can tell, so there's little reason to care.

I remain sympathetic to Arthur Henry King's attitude: "True, BYUSA officers do not have as much power as comparable officers at other universities, but in that very absence of power, they have exemplified empty elitism. They need to be made honest by being chosen, as Church officers are. Ours is not a democratic church. Why this imitation of apostate universities, an imitation of the world not necessitated by being in the world? Cannot the Lord's university be spared the unspeakable vulgarity of childishly run elections on which most sensible students turn their backs?" --Arm the Children, 274.

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