August 17, 2006

Catch-up: Alumni Constitution Stuff

This is an interesting news item: Two writers for the website—Nick Stork and Andrew Eastman allege that they have been "intimidated" or at least confronted by College administrative officials in regards to their stated views on the pending alumni constitution, which both of them oppose.

While I don't know all the facts, I would say that jumping to accusations of intimidation and outright spying seem almost a little too hopeful on the parts of certain constitutional opponents, who wish to see nefariousness in every action taken by the AGTF, the AoA or the administration. Joe Malchow extrapolates these meetings into "a crackdown on freedom of political expression at my school" and PowerLine takes this "abuse of authority and apparent misconduct" all the way to President Wright, demanding "What did President Wright know and when did he know it?" Come on, there might have been a genuine interest in talking to vocal students who have sounded off against the Constitution.

What I wish to say here is not that I think these closed-door meetings were definitely benign, but that the constant vilifying on the part of both sides—pro- and anti-constitution—is and has been for far too long a knee-jerk reaction that crowds out real debate or analysis or even a serious consideration of the question, "Is our school going in the right direction?" Instead, other questions dominate—"Is the rescheduling of an alumni meeting actually a breach of the current Constitution?", "What nasty tricks is the other side playing?", etc.

I think the proposed Constitution is unfair and was drawn up with this unfairness purposely built in (which would be an abuse of power), but I think it was also drawn up in a way that genuinely does have the purpose of allowing and encouraging wider alumni involvement. I expanded a bit more on this idea here.

I think both sides come at the constitution from the same assumption: that they are fighting to give alumni what they really want, which is, of course, coterminous with what their “side” wants. The pro-constitution side, I think, really believes that the past two trustee elections have not been reflective of genuine alumni will, but have been the result of problems in the system that allowed Rogers, Zywicki, and Robinson to ride in on a small wave of discontent and confusion. I think they sincerely believe that the majority of alumni do not prefer candidates who bank on being “outsiders” for their electability. The anti-constitution side seriously believes that they are at the head of a growing movement deeply dissatisfied with the current trajectory of the College.

But the key point is, I think, that both sides feel that a Constitution that helps their side will be the fair(er) arrangement because both believe that they truly represent the will of a hitherto silent, or at least untapped, majority. This "silent majority" idea is always a dangerous position to take because it means that one's entire reason for being comes from transference of one's own desires onto a definitionally amorphous and mute mass of other persons. This is even more dangerous for the actual body of people supposedly constituting that "silent majority" when both sides construct themselves in this manner—it means, essentially, that the only real engagement is of one opponent with the other, and not with the real situation, independent of opinion or wish, and not with the real people who are supposedly being spoken for accurately. I think this is precisely what is being cooked up here, with an added helping of fear and paranoia.

Bon appetit.

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