Behind the scenes of the COVID-19 pandemic, two campaigns are vying for control of the IU Student Government. Both groups, Defy and Inspire, propagate progressive plans to mobilize IUSG. However, I fear that a structurally dysfunctional IUSG will maintain the status quo.
I won't be the first to say that IUSG is lacking in activism. In recent years, IUSG has proved to be incapable of tackling big problems on campus, particularly those relating to mental health, diversity or sustainability. Nonetheless, reimagining IUSG as a composite body of student organizations would reorient IUSG toward progressivism and reignite an era of protest and reform.
At face value, IUSG is intended to bring important student issues to administration. Yet in a campus with two or three clubs for almost any advocacy issue, where does IUSG fit in? Usually, IUSG claims its value through guaranteed, friendly connections with IU administrators.
Unsurprisingly, this creates many problems. When IUSG monopolizes facetime with administration, it stymies non-IUSG student advocacy and acts as an out-of-touch gatekeeper of student issues. A system with one main liaison to IU admin could work, if it's inclusive and adamant.
Whenever IUSG does try to take a stand, it usually ends up being more of a squat. For example, IUSG tends to advocate on top of students, when they should advocate alongside them. Rather than amplifying already existing student efforts to obtain a tuition refund, recent campaigns co-opted those efforts and muddied the water.
IUSG has a history of co-opting student movements. Just look at the Green Bandana Project, press hype about student safety, baseless platitudes about sustainability or all three of IUSG’s accomplishments. Each of these are lukewarm attempts that ignore viable student protests and demonstrations. Your green bandana won’t fix our depression, but actually funding CAPS might.
Easy solutions for these woes exist. Our current IUSG Congress fills half of the mandated 62 Congressional seats and has an electoral mandate of less than 7%. This is because the IUSG Constitution only guarantees seats to places of residence, like dorms, greek houses or off-campus students. Meaning, a mostly white Congress is tasked with legislating for anything between student homelessness or complex racial issues.
If any student group on BeInvolved could request a seat in Congress, then the body would flourish with motivated representatives ready to legislate on behalf of their advocacy issue. Student groups ranging from UndocuHoosiers to the Black Student Union would have newfound power within IUSG.
With an activated Congress, the executive branch will no longer need to rely on time consuming surveys and town halls to gauge important issues. Suddenly, IUSG exec can draw from a broad coalition to implement complex projects such as a Middle Eastern Cultural Center, instead of relying on under-staffed subcommittees.
As our voices are included in the decision-making process, advocacy groups, culture groups and the student body will begin to see IUSG as a legitimate medium of campus change, heralding a new era of campus activism.
After all, in the era of COVID-19, IU students need an activist and inclusive IUSG more than ever, especially if we desire a semblance of progressivism. The IU administration has the money for these policies. Let’s demand it now.
junior, law and public policy
Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.
More in Opinion
President Michael McRobbie's response to Black Lives Matter is inadequate.
Pedestrian-friendly streets are better for public health, the environment, and the economy.
Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.