24
Jan
12

Is there anything uglier than student politics?

Well, yes, of course.  Genocide springs immediately to mind.  The War On (Some) Drugs leaps up to join it; hell, let’s nix some words from that and just make a blanket statement that war is uglier than student politics, full stop.  Even the practice, promulgated by some fitness instructors, of squatting on a Bosu ball “to build core stability” is uglier than student politics.  But is there anything more urgently earnest about trivial issues of Lilliputian pettiness — which nevertheless manages to drag in real human costs to the sanctimoniously masked exercise of tin-pot power — than student politics?  I think not.

Ken spotlights a gaggle of censorious asshats at the London School of Economics:

All the tropes of the censorious bureaucrat are there: leaping into action to bring petty power to bear, inquisitorial demands about the reasons for speech, and a bold pronouncement that free expression must be “balanced” — the balancing to be done by petty bureaucrats — against open-ended, vague, and unprincipled anti-discrimination principles. All of this was a result of a cartoon, on an organization’s own Facebook page.

[…]

Ask any student: do you really trust student union leaders to “balance” your right to speak against whatever they feel is important on any given day? Ask any student: what sort of puerile, sanitized campus will you have if the student union defunds any group that ever says anything that anyone could find objectionable? Ask any student: do you really think, for even a moment, that the student union will weigh speech in the balance even-handedly? The London School of Economics Student Union condemns and censors a satirical cartoon on a humanist site — but do you think that those same student union members will lift a censorious finger to condemn or discourage actual threats of violence by people who claim offense at such discourse?

Shock, horror, &c.

There are two reasons for which people — I use the term loosely — enter student politics.  One is to obtain even the merest shred of contrived power and use it to fustigate others.  The other is to “acquire leadership experience” in the hopes of advancing a career in politics and/or management, in order to obtain more power with which to fustigate others.  These aims are not mutually exclusive.  Either way, the power and scope of student government is so paltry as to eliminate the possibility of that institution adding any value to campus life*, but that only motivates the student bureaucrats to exercise that power as often and as viciously as they can possibly manage.

——

* Before you claim that student unions do good by funding student groups, recognize  that the funding is taken from students by the university and only then allocated to the SU for distribution.  Arguably, those groups would be better served if the university cut out the middle man and allocated student-group funds directly — granted that university bureaucrats are a famously persnickety bunch, but in general they lack the puffed-up self-righteousness of student politicians and often have some sense of duty towards the student body.

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