Editorial: Apathy kills the U’s chances of improving

There’s a reason many legislators are reluctant to allocate much of the state’s $1.6-billion surplus to higher education, even though few seem to doubt that doing so would benefit not only students, but local economic interests as well.

Legislators are like grandparents. You have to scream and shout and shake them. Once you’ve got their attention, they’ll spend the rest of the day doting all over you (just ask Mister Health Care and little Miss Primary Education).

Most organizations have teams of lobbyists devoted to confusing legislators about their constituents’ wishes. Many just get their attention with direct monetary contributions. College students, on the other hand, have ASUU. And lots of us aren’t sure what that is.

Unless you plan on taking the extreme scenic route at the U, you probably picture yourself on a beach sipping cocktails in 10 years, not chumming it up in the brand new Student Life Center, right? Why pay any attention to House Bill 224 and whether it repeals HB 144 when all you need is a 3 here and a 6 there and that Sudoku’s done, baby!

We should be ashamed of this negligence, although it does provide some retribution that our predecessors thought as little of the school’s future in their time here. The same attitude has existed for eons: “We got shafted, so why shouldn’t Generation Next?”

That’s pretty irresponsible, though. If students don’t care whether the U improves, even the most honest legislators are left without an accurate gauge of the state’s higher education to act upon. Without the voice of general students there’s only ASUU and the administration, whose interests are not always commiserating with those of the student body.

The administration recently asked Chronicle staffers to attend a meeting so they could explain what they hope to see from the Utah State Legislature during this year’s session. Newspapers generally aren’t in the habit of answering to the entities they cover, but we agreed to go largely because we recognize that we don’t have the same understandings of context as the people who have been battling these issues for years.

That said, we maintained the correct degree of skepticism during their carefully articulated appeals. Indeed, there were times in the discussion when we were told that we were flat wrong when in fact we were pursuing very serious and justifiable news angles.

None of us begrudges them for it, though. We recognize that the administration fights hard on the U’s behalf and that often yields positive things for students. Still, it served as a reminder that the administration has interests of it own, as do student representatives in ASUU. Students need to be aware of what ASUU and the administration are telling the legislators we all want so badly.

Contact legislators yourself if you’re passionate about something. It may not help us today, but it could go some way toward affording future students the same basic consideration as citizens and workers everywhere else across society.

After all, it would have been nice if somebody had done that for us.

Matthew Piper