The Santa Clara
February 16, 2017
In the novel “1984,” George Orwell described double-think as “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” He warned of a time where respect for differing ideas and freedom of speech would be replaced by persecution of “thought-crime.” Sixty-eight years after the novel’s publication, “1984” is now coming to life on our campus.
This month, the ASG Senate voted to deny conservative students their rights to freedom of speech, association and peaceful assembly on our campus by barring Turning Point USA from becoming an official club.
While 10 courageous senators stood for what was right, 16 senators chose to abdicate their role as responsible representatives in order to appease a radical faction of the student body. (This fringe group of protestors are so fundamentally hostile to conservative viewpoints that they keep an effigy of President Trump in their office space.)
While there is considerable variation in the reasons why these 16 senators cite in their defense, there is one consistency: double-think. It is double-think to believe in both freedom of speech and vote down an ideological minority presence on our campus.
Regrettably, ASG Senate has decided it must be Santa Clara’s censor board against thoughts that go against the prevailing opinion on campus.
Instead of serving as the voice of all Broncos by ensuring that every potential club is responding to a unique demand on our campus, my fellow senators have come to the conclusion that it is their place to decide which views are worthy of being heard on our campus.
They have decided that it is their place to identify those engaging in “thought-crime” and prevent them from having the fundamental freedom of expression on which a good college education is built.
Furthermore, ASG Senators are now seeking to prohibit their fellow students from recording public ASG meetings. After spending a year pushing the theme of transparency, ASG Senate has abruptly changed course and now seeks a more secretive deliberation process.
Instead of responding to criticism of its decisions with understanding and introspective questioning, ASG Senate is attempting to double down on its attempts to prevent the student body of becoming more aware of their actions.
Releasing the official ASG Senate Minutes is simply not enough to ensure accountability. They lull us into a false sense of security regarding the accountability of senators, while providing ASG considerable discretion over what information they choose to make public. Through this method, ASG has thus far avoided revealing how individual senators choose to vote on a particular issue.
Ostensibly, keeping this private allows senators to vote for what is right without worrying about a public backlash. In practice, however, this makes senators unaccountable for their votes because we can’t hold them responsible for their actions. Pairing cryptic voting with a ban on recording ASG Senate meetings represents the final nail in the coffin of ASG accountability.
We expect more of our senators than to hide behind procedural gimmicks instead of facing the public scrutiny that comes with their roles. We expect more of our senators than refusing to publicly release their voting records. We expect more of our senators than making their decisions based on popular opinion rather than what is fair and just. We expect more of our senators than we are getting and we have every right to.
It may be “1984” on our campus today, but there is no reason it must continue moving forward. By following just two simple rules, our student government can get itself back on track.
First, ASG Senate should welcome all political viewpoints that do not promote violence against others. NARAL Pro-choice America should be as welcome as Broncos For Life. The Progressive Student Network should be as welcome as Turning Point USA. The Communist Party should be as welcome as the Libertarian Party. By following this simple rule, we can ensure that we are tolerant of everyone’s political beliefs and not just those who we agree with.
Secondly, ASG Senate should seek to be as transparent as humanly possible. Rather than making it harder for students to know what we are doing, we should aim to make it easier.
For the rest of my term, I will be fighting for these two goals and I urge you to ask your senators to join me.
Ahmer Israr is a senior Public Health major and an At-Large Senator with the Associated Student Government of Santa Clara.