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Raw DS Article: Involvement

March 8, 2009

In my 2 ½ years of writing for the Dakota Student, I’ve found reaction to the articles I’ve drafted to range from blissful ignorance (“You’re a writer for them?”) to hateful, profanity-laced e-mails drafted from the Blackberry of someone who just moments before read one of my articles. I’ve covered topics of my own interest as well as those that are in the greater interest of students. From my own personal Judaism to the issues we students face with the Parking Office and Higher One, the reactions of the greater community has been overwhelmingly positive, with a few minor exceptions. As someone who has been part of advocating for students on the DS opinion page and through other channels on campus, I have found that when it comes to the litany of issues present here at UND that both the students and the administration have large flaws in the way they go about improving the community we live, work and learn in.

There have been several issues and occasions at UND where, had someone within the many levels of the university’s administration taken the effort to either apologize for something or actively work towards finding a solution to a problem, a larger, more embarrassing situation and ensuing PR nightmare could have been avoided. This problem is something that has hurt the school in more ways than one, even in the relatively short time I have been here at the school. Take, for example, the Gamma Phi Beta Cowboy and Indian sorority party held last year. Instead of immediately taking action and working towards an amicable solution and apology, members of the Native American Student Organization were stonewalled by the Greek community and UND’s administration. Only after they took the issue to the press did anything resembling a solution and appropriate punishment come to fruition.

I have experienced this phenomena on a personal level on several occasions. First and foremost in my experience here was dealing with former President Kupchella, the administration and the issue of anti-Semitism and hate crimes on campus. Instead of addressing the issue of several anti-Semitic occurrences on campus, the administration and several UND staff members refused to acknowledge there was a problem with what was going on. Only after the series of events was publicized in the local and national media was any action taken. Had someone from the administration and the Housing Office stepped up and acted in what is considered to be an appropriate manner in that situation (as established by any number of sources, including the Anti-Defamation League) the university would have avoided much shame and embarrassment in the country.

It is fitting that this article will be published on the day before Student Government elections. This is an important vote to decide who represents us, the students, to the state, our administration and the greater Grand Forks community. Say what you will about the conduct and work ethic (or lack thereof) of our past Senates and Presidential administrations, quite frankly, even more embarrassing is the fact that elections for these positions usually garner the participation of less than 20% of UND’s student population.

For several years, various entities have come in and steamrolled over the students on campus, with little more than a near-silent peep from the student body. Would things be different if we would have taken the initiative to speak up about the Wellness Center (its associated fees and lack of access post-graduation), the parking ramp (the rise in costs, the lost promises of paved lots from years ago, and the fact that no student in their right mind would pay $350 for a “coveted” ramp spot) or the Pride Card? Every one of us has a personal breaking point where we won’t take any more of these moves, and begin to take action. The same thing goes for the campus as a whole—we are near that breaking point. It’s time for each and every student to stand up and represent ourselves to those for whom we are making a significant investment of tuition dollars and student fees. The first step in this process is going out tomorrow and voting in Student Government elections. Educate yourselves about the candidates, their experience, the issues they stand for and their goals for the year. The next time you see something on-campus that doesn’t seem right, address the issue. As Mohatma Ghandi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Now, more than ever, we students need to start embodying that change we wish to see in the university. We make a significant financial and personal investment to be here. Isn’t it about time we began to demand better results on our portfolios?

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