Sunday, January 22, 2006

"Government" as Entertainment

Apparently, there was high drama at a meeting of the Yale College Council last week, with representative Alan Kennedy-Shaffer moving to impeach three officers. Why? Because they had refused to bring up a bill of his that would have allowed seniors, who are currently not permitted to do so, to serve on the council during their final semester at Yale. Kennedy-Shaffer, you see, is the longest continuously serving member of the council, and as a second-semester senior, he has to leave office this month. Boo hoo.

Anyway, Jamie Kirchik scores some hilarious points against AKS (as he likes to be called), the YCC, and student government in general.

[YCC President Steven] Syverud had no patience for this grave procedure, stating, "We have such a long list of things we want to accomplish this semester. . . . We just can't humor Alan every time he wants to go tilting at windmills." Indeed, the YCC is quite busy working on such important projects as bringing Cookie Crunch to the dining halls, booking Air Supply for Spring Fling and squandering the money they've raised via the Student Activities Fee on the traveling club power yoga team. But give Steve props, at least the literary reference was apt.

For those students who wisely pay more attention to the national political scene and enjoy its various and sundry oddities, Kennedy-Shaffer is the closest thing Yale has to former Congressman Jim Traficant, who represented Ohio's Mahoning County for more than 15 years until he was convicted of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion in 2002. I do not for a minute suggest that AKS is corrupt; he just shares Traficant's flair for the dramatic.

Kirchik concludes:

In addition to its sheer entertainment value, the most beneficial outcome of this mini-scandal is that it has torn down the facade surrounding student government. All his attempts to remain on the Council stymied by his peers, Kennedy-Shaffer sent a memo to the Dean's Office "requesting an injunction to prevent the Council from excluding members of the senior class from the January elections." Angry at his playmates for stealing his toys, the hurt child went crying to Mommy.

Again, do not take my criticism as a personal slight against AKS, for his behavior is merely a symptom of the whole nasty enterprise that is student government. The University, after all, is not a democracy, nor should it be. The prestigious status of Yale does not render the student government, which the administration wisely uses to deflect the cries of even more annoying liberal activists, any more significant in the lives of its constituents, the students. The YCC still attracts, for the most part, the same kids who did student government in high school. You don't need me to spell it out.

So mourn the temporary political passing of Alan Kennedy-Shaffer. No longer will we be entertained by the force of nature who made the YCC actually worth reading about. No longer will do-nothing YCC representatives have Alan to scapegoat while deflecting attention from the lame events they plan and the money they mishandle. But don't worry, Alan, we haven't heard the last of you. There is a Cumberland County, Pa. Board of Commissioners seat with your name on it, ripe for the taking.

Which may well be true. Making the story all the funnier and perhaps launching his county campaign, AKS had a column in the central Pennsylvania Patriot the other week, a typical I'm-smarter-than-you college opinion piece: liberal, with the obligatory hyperbole and references to George Orwell while sounding Orwellian himself. Of course, what flies at Yale doesn't really fly in Cumberland County, and I doubt he'd stand a chance. But it'd be fun to watch.


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