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Seth Ewing: Tyranny of student government

Seth Ewing
Seth Ewing

I composed a piece about "Rush Week" at Merced College. I was about to send it through when I was informed by the editor that I would have a new colleague, Michael Fincher, who shares this column with me.

He wrote an article about activities at UC Merced, so instead of trashing the Rush Week piece, I am going to recycle it as a follow-up on how MC is surviving in contrast to whatever the UC kids are doing.

Rush Week is a promotional event for the clubs at MC. All clubs at MC are chartered by the Associated Students of Merced College, or ASMC. This nefarious organization has been under the radar for quite awhile. What makes this group evil, you ask?

Allow me to elaborate.

Our community college has no student body union, thus the ASMC masquerades as the official student body union.

It is important to note that simply becoming a student at MC doesn't automatically make you a member of the ASMC, as you might expect from any typical student body union.

On the contrary, the ASMC doesn't represent all students of MC. Instead, it only stands for the students who have surrendered their $7 membership fee.

Where I come from, this is called racketeering.

Is having a racketeering organization on campus a bad thing? The answer is a resounding yes.

Students are unable to found clubs unless they obtain a charter from the ASMC; to be a member of any club at MC you must buy the ASMC membership.

It seems pretty absurd that the reason for a club charter on campus is to increase profits for ASMC. I suggest that an unbiased entity review what clubs should be allowed -- not one that takes a cut from the students.

A curious corollary is that there is no rival student body organization. The ASMC maintains a monopoly.

If we had two racketeering outfits on campus, it might drive down the cost of membership.

Ideally, however, MC students deserve a student body union that represents the students and not a monetary agenda.

It is important to note that the membership expires every semester and must be renewed at full cost -- a fee that has increased by a dollar every year.

It was a rude awakening when I learned these facts about ASMC firsthand when I myself campaigned for the ASMC presidency. My instructor and fellow students at the Devil's Advocate newspaper thought it would be interesting if I ran.

I went down to fill out the application, and the clerk asked for my identification card. I assumed that they would need the card to verify my status as a student, but this was not the case when they told me about the required ASMC membership sticker.

Not only did they expect me to pay a fee, but they also wanted me to obtain 50 signatures that are -- ironically -- not required to be from ASMC members.

This was a late Thursday afternoon, and the deadline was Friday.

I had prior engagements on Friday, mainly surviving math class, getting the front tire on my Harley replaced and coffee with a girl who had enjoyed one of my articles.

I falsely assumed that I would be assigned aides who would handle the campaign signatures.

This was not the case. After finding out there were no aides, I surrendered the idea of committing to the rat race. Besides, I needed the money for beer on the poker run Saturday, hence the new motorcycle tire.

Subsequently, another person who shares my first name became president of the ASMC. A lot of people were under the impression that they were voting for me and not him, based on the rumors spread concerning my own bid.

The reason the ASMC has gone unnoticed for so long is that it operates under the guise of a nonprofit organization.

But the last time I checked, the only task it had done was hand out canned peaches to impoverished students. But only if you have the $7 sticker.

Either these are the best peaches on Earth or this is a scam.

If you ask me, the canned peaches aren't worth it. Next month, ASMC elections will be held. I recommend that students vote for an "ASMC-free MC."

Specialist Seth L. Ewing is an Army combat veteran of two tours in Iraq. He now studies journalism at Merced College.

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