Fear and Loathing in De Anza College, pt. 3

What was the term that Spider Jerusalem used when, at the end of the presidential campaign, the Smiler unleashed a particularly repulsive TV advertisement, using the figure of a popular but dead politician to support his candidacy?

“The fix is in.”

There was a quasi-emergency meeting held the day right after the election committee dropped the libel charges and tabled further considerations for a future meeting. Notably, this was a meeting that was not expected by the defendant candidate – though he did arrive in the nick of time for the meeting, possibly speeding to college along the way, the meeting was then delayed again for thirty minutes. As he had a contractual obligation that day, waiting any longer proved infeasible, and he was forced to leave for Oakland.

The actual meeting time, I should note, was a full fifty minutes after the first initial, and surprise, announcement.

Was this meeting a surprise? The Brown Act specifies that even school council meetings require 72-hr notice – but the Act doesn’t cover student committees, which can be run on a moment’s notice if desired. So its legitimacy isn’t in question. Whether or not it was fair or just, given the case before them, however, is another issue entirely. Though Terrell Sterling’s semantic analysis of how the prior meeting had, technically, been notice of Friday’s meeting, a contextual analysis of the same audio recording he used to justify his decision could easily be interpreted otherwise.

Specifically, the motion to table Josh Chou’s disqualification happened in three steps: first, the motion specified that the issue be tabled until both the student council advisor and secretary were present for advisory purposes and the presenting of the relevant documents. Second, that the issue would then be tabled until next week.

It was after the passing of the motion, reworded by Terrell Sterling to be next week, that they voted upon it. Upon the motion’s passing, Sterling then summarized it under the terms of the first statement, of which I hasten to note has no real temporal specificity.

The most suspicious thing was when the other council members were asked to specify what their original interpretation was. Despite the clear issue at-hand – did they or did they not think that the meeting was to be next week – only one gave a clear answer: the councilmember that posited the original motion in the first place. All other replies were a variant on the theme of “Well, it was clear that we were supposed to wait for the advisor and secretary to be available…”

I smell a wet rat. It was a simple yes or no question: did you think the meeting was going to be held next week? The council’s unanimously vague answers hints of prior setup – as if the meeting was prescripted, and what we’re now seeing is merely a way of alleviating public concerns.

But that can’t be true. Right? These are our peers – when they’re not acting like amateur politicians, they’re our friends. We know their character, right? We know them to be above underhanded cigar-room deliberations.

Right?

Bullshit. They knew how important this meeting was. They knew, from context of the prior night’s meeting, that most of the public was expecting the followup next week, not next day. They knew that, even if the public was aware,  a single day is hardly enough for the defendant to mount a case in response to the situation developed in the prior meeting. They also knew exactly how fucking important the motion to validate the guest list pertaining to the missed student body meetings by the defendant candidate was – that by legitimizing it, it now serves as evidence against him, despite any eyewitness accounts they may use to counter.

I asked Terrell a simple question after the controversial meeting was adjourned: “will the Committee be treating this issue with a strict adherence to the bylaws, or ad hoc?”

Obviously, given the tone of this post, not ad hoc. Not based on the merits of this case. Not based on right, wrong, justice or the ideals of democracy.

The Committee will be ruled by the blind, unquestioned machine of bureaucracy.

Worse, the defendant team really didn’t make a good case for themselves. When the candidate for Vice President of Budget and Finances threatens the chairman and DASB president, on record and without question as to his intentions, the case for Josh Chou suddenly looks a hell of a lot worse.

Mo, you are a fucking idiot. You are a worse threat to your friends than the entirety of the student council. Why the fuck are you in this politics game – this brutal and unforgiving game of words? I spent a good ten minutes drilling into the presidential candidate that, at this point, no matter the philosophies of his group, the Students United will have to divide with at least one bit of pure political poison. Because, after Mo’s actions, if the Students United insists on internal union, they will be dividing themselves against the student populace, of whom they intend on representing. Do not protect the stupid and self-destructive. Do not protect the thugs and the malicious. Your stance was always about diversity and unity – do not protect those that would seek to dissolve trust with the same system you seek to lead.

And above all, don’t piss off people who hold power over you, dammit. This isn’t warfare – you’re not going to knock them off balance by getting them emotional. You’re making the case worse for you by letting Mo go unrestrained.

There was still ambivalence as to how the outcome of the final meeting, to be held on Monday, would go. Mo’s actions had extinguished any hope that the election committee would  at all be favorable to Josh Chou’s case.

Before I allow this entry to die in a gloomy state at the 1000 word mark, however, there is one last, desperate glimmer of hope. My email campaign was at least successful in getting one of the current vice presidents to reconsider the context of the case – and in a positive light at that.  Something that hours of haggling at those meetings had completely failed to do.

As I told the presidential-candidate of this nasty little student election, there’s no way I’d want “real” political power. Though direct influence has many, many perks in its favor, the crushing realities of responsibility serves more as a handcuff than as an enabler. How many of those votes passed in that meeting wasn’t because of the committee member’s personal stance, but because of how the system operates? How much hypocrisy must pass between Sterling’s lips when he tells Custodio and Chou that the whole thing isn’t personal? What room is there for rights and justice when you are bound by the intricate cage of bylaws?

While it is necessary to fight on the committee’s grounds, the committee’s turf, fighting a stronger party on their grounds is a damn good way to lose the war. I’ll work on the wuwei angle instead – to wield power without wielding power, and to strike where they cannot react, define, and restrain.

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~ by Gonzo Mehum on May 17, 2009.

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