Our school has been labeled in a variety of different ways: un-American, anti-America, unpatriotic, just to name a few. Student Facebook groups have been flooded by posts and comments making these allegations. Multiple news outlets have picked up sensational stories about the campus.
Twitter had ten tweets per minute being posted on the subject at the peak of the controversy. All of this related to a resolution that asks that no flags be displayed in an Associated Students government office on the basis of inclusiveness.
But, why is it that something as simple as hanging a flag in a meeting space on campus can cause outrage and a public relations nightmare?
Well, I don't really plan on getting into that, since most people have their opinions regarding this issue. It doesn't help that there's plenty of misinformation about the actual resolution.
I have never agreed with the resolution, but it's important to clarify that the resolution was about a specific part of campus, and not the campus as a whole.
This was voted on by a small legislative council in the student government at UC Irvine; a council that hosts meetings with minimal public awareness or attendance.
This also happens to be a council that has passed nearly every single resolution that has come to the table since the beginning of the year. The entire student body did not have the opportunity to vote on this matter, and it should not be labeled as such.
I am here to talk about how this controversy could not have been better for the UC Irvine community. While most would frame this as a detrimental disaster, I'd like to say that this is a hidden blessing.
The reason is this: people are finally speaking up.
I am finally seeing my peers and constituents speak up about the manipulative legislative council, and how the resolution they've passed does not align with the majority opinion.
I can gauge this by the many students commenting in solidarity against the resolution on Facebook groups. I've also seen a wave of UCI students changing profile pictures to anything that includes the American flag.
These people have been silent before, and now are speaking up.
This could not have been better for our often silent campus population. The silent majority is finally speaking louder than the outspoken minority at UCI on an issue that they truly care about.
Student governments, specifically their legislative bodies, across the country have been under constant and consistent manipulation recently. Elected members are bringing forth legislation from special interest groups on campus that don't serve as a representative opinion of the entire student body, and are passing them without contest.
This is because we've enabled them to do so. Here at UCI, we've had low voter turnout, limited candidates from which to choose, and very quiet campaign efforts from members running for this legislative council. The last election for legislative representatives had around a 500 people vote.
This is on a campus of more than 22,000 undergraduate students, mind you.
The majority of students don't pay attention to this legislative council, and the council representatives recognized this many years ago. They can essentially pass anything they deem desirable without contest because the students are unaware and quite frankly are indifferent.
Let me put this in perspective: since the beginning of the school year, the elected council has passed more than 70 resolutions. Some related to social justice issues, some related to internal issues, some related to allocation of funds, and more. If I were to stroll across campus on an average day, I doubt any student would be able to identify anything that student government is considering in the legislative council.
I want to be sure this is unbiased: the general population of students and the student government legislature are equally responsible for this fiasco. The former have been far too trusting and silent on anything related to campus politics. The latter have been far too abusive of the system for which they are responsible.
They claim that they are being transparent by solely posting the week's legislation that's on the agenda on their website. They only have to post it 72 hours in a "public area" before the vote occurs in accordance their by-laws. They've determined that the ASUCI website qualifies as a "public area".
They are foolish in even considering that students will check the ASUCI website to read legislation on a weekly basis. That's not the world we live in. But, the legislature is not foolish.
I can argue that they know this is exactly the way it works. They do the bare minimum (i.e. post resolutions on the website) and they've done their end of the bargain. They know that if they actually posted public Facebook statuses about the weekly agenda, and sent out emails to anyone interested, suddenly their special interest resolutions would get too much attention.
They're plenty happy with silently passing legislation without contest. The corruptive misleading nature of our student government, to serve the special interests of a minority instead of the considering the general consensus of the student population, is finally being brought to surface.
As soon as the resolution passed, I posted a status about the resolution and my disagreement with it. I have posted statuses about resolutions before, but the interest in the subject usually dies out quickly.
This time, it was very different.
I saw first-hand this story escalate through the ranks of social media and television media. The sole reason this controversy was brought to light was because our student body refused to remain silent.
If everyone at UCI was satisfied with this resolution, would there have been a need to discuss this on social media for days?
This is a clear identifier that the resolution that was passed does not represent the majority of students' opinions. The fact that any news outlet could call the entire university anti-American is absurd.
The real problem has to do with the trust we've put in our legislative body, and the lack of accountability for their actions.
I foresee a huge shift in the campus political sphere.
People that have usually been too afraid to speak due to fear of conflict have finally spoken, and I think they will continue to speak until their interests are actually being served. We can no longer be manipulated by special interest groups on campus that have the ability to dictate the perception of our beloved campus.
So many students are absolutely proud to be American, myself included.
Students from the left and from the right. Students born here because of their families and students born abroad that have come here to start a new chapter of their lives. Our campus is proud to be American, and in the upcoming weeks, this will be more than evident.
I already see students creating event pages for rallies and protests to bring the flag back. They are taking public action. This type of activism has never been popular at UC Irvine. Now, students feel taken advantage of by the council.
Their young university's name, the same one that President Barack Obama spoke to a few short months ago at our commencement, is now in the minds of many Americans nationwide with a negative stigma.
Sometimes we take our freedoms and our rights for granted and don't feel the need to speak out for them because they seem innate.
But, when someone attempts to set a precedent on limiting freedom of expression, especially at an institution of higher education, you know that the students are going to speak out. Without students speaking out, we remain hopeless.
I can guarantee you one thing: UC Irvine is an American university, and myself, and the majority of students alike, intend to fervently speak out and protect all freedoms of speech and expression. We have a long road ahead of us to convince the public of this.
But, we will not go down without a fight.