• Will Rotnofsky-Mandalapu be able to effect real change?

    As of yesterday, #RotMan2015 is officially a thing.  

    Now more than ever before, though, the stakes for Student Government are high.   

    When I took a step back from the frenzy and excitement, I wondered if perhaps Rotnofsky-Mandalapu are too progressive. In the broader scheme of things, SG maintains itself because of the same things that people don't like, namely the lack of diversity and transparency.  

    Year after year, students in SG drink the Kool-Aid and assimilate into the system quickly and quietly. The reason the general student body doesn't hear about the ins and outs of SG is that they aren't a part of it.  

    Elite? Yes. Good at doing what its job description says? Sure. The general student body's favorite student organization? Probably not. 

    But when it comes down to it, UT has, and always will, run somewhat smoothly because of the lack of diversity within SG. We put our trust in these people to keep UT afloat, and until this past election season, nothing was done about it. 

    This idea of exclusion is one that Rotnofsky and Mandalapu touched on several times during the race. It comes as no surprise that their platform resonated with many — after all, SG isn't a representation of the student body and definitely doesn't get to hear the opinions of all students as much as they should or want to. As more and more people rallied behind the refreshing ideas of the comedic duo, it became clear that a lot of students wanted change in SG and viewed Rotnosfky-Mandalapu as the vehicle to deliver it.  

    But — and as much as it pains me to say this — is UT ready for this change?  

    Yes, SG has problems. But just like the dysfunctional family that they are, SG is suited for a leader that understands the nuances of the system. The benefit of Braydon and Kimia is that they have a deep understanding of how SG works and would have been able to continue to run it in the fashion that it always has been.  

    While this would have angered some, it would have eventually resulted in all the social media hype dying down and things returning to normal, which, as the past has shown us, isn't all that bad after all. A few bills will get passed, something will be changed to a 24 hour study center and another initiative for student safety will come to fruition. No harm, no foul--SG will do what it does best: do stuff that we plebeians can't understand.  

    Opponents of the traditional SG candidates voted for RotMan because they didn't want more of the same, and I applaud them for that. In the past few weeks, a statement about inclusion and student voice was made loud and clear.  

    However, I can't help but think that more of the same is all that UT is equipped for. We're used to being in the dark about campus issues. It's kind of our thing. Maybe it is time, as Rotnofsky-Mandalapu assured us, to give students a voice and more active role in their UT communities. I certainly hope this is true, but a part of me knows that getting SG members to rally behind such an inexperienced pair will be a struggle — one I hope doesn't break the two "good old boys." 

     I don't believe effective change is possible at this University when it comes from SG. To be quite frank, it doesn't have to. At best, we are here for four or so years. What happens here — in Student Government at least — doesn't change the world. I'm OK with that. While no steps get taken forward, neither are ones backward. In my mind, that's good enough.  

    I commend Rotnofsky-Mandalapu for an incredible campaign and for saying the things that a lot of us were thinking. Curious is an understatement about how I feel regarding the coming weeks as Rotnofsky and Mandalapu take office. Good luck to both of them and may the odds be ever in your favor. 

    Berkeley is an associate editor.

  • UT should learn from OU's response to SAE video

    You've all seen the video of Sigma Alpha Epsilon members at the University of Oklahoma. In the spirit of the Red River Rivalry, it's easy to point fingers at OU and ridicule its student body. However, something can be learned from OU. I would not be surprised if the same type of songs are being sung behind closed doors here at UT, and neither should you. If that's so, we shouldn't shrug it of,f nor should we excuse it.  Severe punishment is necessary. 

    The overwhelming participation and enthusiasm in singing the song we see in the video is worrying. This chant was confident and free of any discretion as to prevent getting caught. 

    In a statement Tuesday, President William Powers Jr. said that the Dean of Students is looking into rumors that the same chant has been traditionally taught to fraternity members in SAE here at UT. An assortment of social media posts also claim that the chant is not isolated to Norman. Although nothing has been proved or verified as yet, it is safe to assume chants similar, if not identical, to the one in the video are being used in fraternities in Texas.  

    OU President David Boren's decisions to kick the fraternity off campus and expel the two young men most prominent in the leaked video were admittedly radical but completely just decisions. University honor codes are nothing to violate. I can only hope if evidence of this abhorrent level of racism is found on our campus, Powers or whoever replaces him follows Boren's lead.  

    The behavior exhibited by those students at OU this weekend is inexcusable. Racism is not playful. Racism cannot be discredited as a relic of tradition. Racism kills, and it is about time that any organization that regularly passes on songs or chants that contain such explicit and offensive material caught up with the times and stopped before they suffer fates similar to those at the hands of OU. 

    Bounds is an associate editor.

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  • Greater urgency needed in recognition of injustices done at home

    In his most recent column, Jeremi Suri notes that we have become increasingly divided because of global inequality. This polarization, Suri says, has left little space for healthy disagreement. The “incivility” he accuses of undermining democracy, however, is largely rhetoric.

    Politicians use incendiary, uncivil words to appease the interests of their constituencies. But mainstream dialogue is reactive and fleeting – often rendering it ineffective. Contemporary civil rights “movements” have diffused into hashtags and clicktivism. Their words are uncivil, but the discussion is still neutered.

    The incivility Suri sees is targeted. “Human rights abuses” is an uncivil phrase that has become largely empty rhetoric for the mainstream public. It conjures up images of starving children in third-world countries when these abuses are brutally present only hours away from our own University. The phrase is almost never seen in the same headlines as due process violations and police brutality in the Third Ward of Houston. The contemporary immigration debate has not made space to talk about for-profit detention centers. We are much too civil in these conversations.

    Police brutality is uncivil — there is no civil fairness in a trial where the police are investigating a crime of which one of their own has been accused. Yet, two years from now, the Department of Justice report on Ferguson will fade out of the nation’s consciousness. African-Americans will continue to get jail time for late payments, while police officers are punished with misdemeanors for beating prisoners. Sexual abuse in the immigrant detention centers in San Antonio is uncivil.

    Yet, with little national attention, Texas continues operating under the influence of these for-profit prisons with federal dollars, capacity quotas and heavy campaign contributions. Their stocks will continue to soar as they "cash in" on the detainment of incarcerated illegal immigrant children in South Texas. Laws that cause disproportionate burdens are uncivil. And as long as voter turnout stays low, restrictive voter ID laws could set subtle precedents for a return to poll taxing, making it more difficult for marginalized populations to vote.

    This trend will continue as long as we stay "rhetorically uncivil." Our dialogue is detached and academic. It is the imperative of the conferences, symposia and panels at this University to foster depth, honesty, and controversy. Even at the expense of civility. Without recognition, there is no justice.

    We are much too civil about the wrong things.

    Shah is a business and government sophomore from Temple.

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