Posted May 29, 2014 by Cooper Point Journal in Campus Life

Geoduck Student Union at Standstill



smallgsu_webRecently, there has been much discussion concerning the current structure and effectiveness of the Geoduck Student Union as a representative student body of power. Examining one of the GSU’s many websites, an observer would find outdated meeting locations and membership information, with a seemingly barren amount of recent activity and updates.

This reporter was only able to discern the actual site of the weekly convene by contacting a member of the Union directly. Although far from a secret society with complicated handshakes and bizarre rituals, members of the GSU do admit their position can act as an “isolated bubble” within the campus community. They also speak of frustrating attendance, participation, and administrative obstacles to achieving their goals. Elaborating on the difficulties the GSU faces, Rep. Andrew Pawlicki-Sinclair said, “we are only as strong as those who participate want us to be. We need more people with passion.”

So what solutions have been proposed for these various problems? This school year saw the emergence of what was termed the “Evergreen Revival,” which consisted of two General Assemblies with the purpose of forming small committees to tackle the individual issues that the students at the assembly cared about. The movement lacked momentum, however, and these smaller committees did not establish regular meetings or enact any tangible changes on campus.

Rep. Dante Garcia reflected this sentiment. “There are some really good intentions, and people will pick up the ball and carry it forward,” he said,”but when it comes to the long run, it’s consistency that we really lack, and some of the fundamentals, such as transparency with our meetings times and agendas.”

Some believe the problems are fundamentally structural, which can only be rectified through amendment or even complete reformation. Forest Hunt, an incumbent GSU representative, argues that the current system by nature can often be an “anti-action body”—serving to prevent reform and change as opposed to facilitating it—and would require serious change to grant itself true governmental legitimacy. He and a group of other student organizers have recently been trying to bring those changes about with a movement based on the New Union constitution. This constitution hinges upon the idea of direct democracy assemblies and several popularly elected bodies tasked with executive and communicative responsibilities. One of the features of this New Union is that it would provide certain members opportunities to earn credits for participation within the Union.

Tyler Bieber, the President of the Greener Organization who is now running for GSU office, brought up some arguments against the New Union in the May 8 edition of the CPJ. He contended that the New Union has no proposed interim government for the transitional period to the new system and no method of accountability for the various committee members.

His article, “GSU: the Cut and Paste Constitution,” explained some changes he would make to the GSU. Some of those changes were to appoint of a Speaker of the Board and an accountability system to remove members of the GSU that is “sensible and straightforward.

Hunt retorted that the participatory and inclusive nature of the entire student body within the New Union ensures maximal levels of accountability. He argued this is actually the strength as opposed to a weakness of the proposed reform, which is being touted as a large-scale movement rather than a mere amendment.

The New Union constitution did not manage to find its way on to this year’s ballot, but its respective proponents have affirmed that they will be pushing to make effective changes to the current document throughout the next school year.

GSU Reformation in the Past

This is not the first time students have called for radical reformation of our student government. The Original GSU was first formed in 2006; in the same year, eyebrows were raised from the student populace as the GSU wasted no time in requesting a stipend—at the time intended only for those who expressed financial need—for its members.

In 2008 there were growing concerns that the student government was ineffective at following through on its original promises of ousting Aramark from campus and reforming the Board of Trustees—an 8 member board of governor appointed alumni, community members, and a single student that holds very large sway over the direction Evergreen State College travels in. This led to an effort to instate the Free Student Union, a separate entity from the GSU that could have acted as a replacement student government had it ever gathered enough support. This organization focused on a decentralization of power and dismantling of the hierarchy within the GSU to facilitate rapid and large scale mobilizations of the student body minus the bureaucratic red tape.

The New Union itself a movement that originated in 2009, which Hunt and his fellow organizers revived this year to try and put on the ballot.

This next school year may be one that will most likely see a great deal of debate concerning the future of the GSU and its constitution. To ensure that the outcome of these formative times is one that reflects the student body’s interests and beliefs, those interested are encouraged to speak up at the current GSU meetings, which are held every Wednesday from 1:15 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the Student Activities Conference Room. There are also several remaining vacant positions on the GSU for the next school year, and students who wish to play a part in school politics are encouraged to apply.