Letter to the Editor: ASOC isn’t working for you, so we won’t work for ASOC

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Dear Nina Srdić Hadži-Nešić, Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) President, 

Let us be clear: we love ASOC. Few institutions allow students to manage a nonprofit organization that lets students run businesses, appoint students to the Board of Trustees, fund over $200,000 in student-led programming — you see the point. During our term in office, we are proud to have rewritten the ASOC Constitution, launched Sundays with Senate, appointed student representatives to the Presidential Search Committee, created a map identifying accessible locations on campus, established Metro U-Pass and revived FallFest

We are truly grateful to have served the student body on ASOC for two and a half years in total, but we can no longer work, sit and vote with a body who does not respect us or the work that we do. We know what you want to say: that you do indeed respect us. But we call B.S. You respect that two of the three voting members of color do the majority of the labor so you don’t have to. You respect that you don’t have to be embarrassed to be a member of Senate because we make everything look good for you. And you respect that there are no consequences for your actions or lack thereof. 

Senate members have proven to be unwilling to take initiative or push for change. They repeatedly recognize that they aren’t doing enough work, but refuse to change their situation. They expect us to hand them events, policies and step-by-step instructions on a silver platter. And when we, the last voting members of color on this body, go the extra mile to help them out, most members rudely dismiss, scrutinize or steal our work. The jig is up. 

The ASOC branches are not immune. 

After increasing their budget, Honor Board plans to spend their new funds by buying hats, joggers and hoodies for themselves. Diversity and Equity Board (DEB) pays corporate-level honorariums to friends and others that are not vetted. Not to mention, DEB often funds themselves. The Renewable Energy and Sustainability Fund (RESF) cannot come up with enough ways to spend its vast annual budgetary allocation. There is a belief within the organization that student fees are play money, that folks can use it without concern for what the money is actually for because it does not belong to them. 

On top of that, disproportionate racialized scrutiny permeates the organization. RESF should be applauded for programming Food Justice Month and funding sustainable initiatives on campus, but pedaling the idea that people should have to pass a quiz in order to vote in an ASOC election hearkens back to the Jim Crow era. And DEB should be commended for establishing the Lavender Lounge, but spreading false information about the Vice President of Internal Affairs in their annual report and refusing to correct it when confronted makes collaboration with them impossible. Meanwhile, Honor Board is more concerned with buying swag than advocating for a more equitable conduct process. 

And while it is easy to vilify Senate for “abusing positions of power,” Senate hosts open funding discussions and votes, posts their minutes weekly in a timely manner and has standards for taking correct minutes. DEB, Honor Board and RESF cannot say the same. As a result, most of our evidence is derived from personal experience, but a deep dive into their minutes illuminates their shady affairs. 

Our entire time in this organization was damn us if we do, damn us if we don’t. The passive liberalism (slacktivism, as it’s cleverly called), is a theme across ASOC. Few members of Senate and throughout the ASOC branches want actual change — they just talk in support of clout for one’s wokeness. There are many faults within this organization. And strangely enough, horizontal leadership seems to be central to that. Its botched autocratic implementation has been a guise for what is truly desired: congratulations for the achievements one had no part of and lack of accountability for inaction. 

Simply put, many are here to bolster their resumes. Issues facing students are no longer central to ASOC’s charge. ASOC is an exceptional organization and should be in the hands of student leaders that care for its success. With that, we hope this message encourages students to not only show up, but also speak up at meetings. We hope students demand action from our representatives and remove negligent representatives from office. And we hope this empowers strong and dedicated student leaders to run for office and create spaces where change is revered. 

From DEB members believing only they do important work to Senate members not doing any work, to RESF having a vision with no strategy, to Honor Board fulfilling desires for student fee-funded merchandise, something has to change within ASOC. 

That, or everyone should resign. We are. 

To ensure a timely and smooth transition to the next Vice President of Internal Affairs and Vice President of Financial Affairs, we are resigning effective Nov. 25. 

 

Proudly and forever supporting students and their activities,

Wafa Abedin (junior), Vice President of Internal Affairs

Jordan Walker (junior), Vice President of Financial Affairs