USG debate mocks effort

Student organization leaders deserve more from the USG election

It is disheartening to consider what Baruch College is versus what it could be. On paper, it is an amazing institution. Its student body is one of the nation’s most diverse in terms of background and life experience. Its name is synonymous with business and finance within the CUNY system, no small feat among CUNY’s sprawling web of colleges.

Yet internally, it is hobbled by its reputation as a commuter school. Students come to class, take notes and then go home—not to their dorms, but to their homes in the outer boroughs. If any other university had as many students milling about its halls at 12:25 or 4:10 or 5:25 as Baruch does, it would pride itself on the magnitude of student engagement it witnesses. Yet at Baruch, this activity takes on the character of Penn Station at rush hour.

Fortunately there is a small, creative and highly committed group of students at Baruch who feel otherwise: the leaders and members of its many student organizations. Whereas other students take what they can from Baruch and then go home, student leaders commit their time to giving back.

Giving back in this way is a serious commitment. Club leaders have to work with a team, create plans and labor within the boundaries of budgets and regulations. They need endless creativity and a commitment to the parts of leadership—schmoozing, paperwork, late nights—which they often detest. They also have to maintain their resolve against a commuter student mentality that is all-too-often infectious.

Club leaders often lean on one another for support. They weep into their drinks at Fitzgerald’s Pub. They vent to one another, often because parents, siblings and significant others grow weary of hearing it. More than one student leader’s mental breakdown has been hugged out in Baruch’s stairwells.

Club leaders all know they are fighting an uphill battle. They see the lack of engagement and ignore it because it is their job to defeat it. They know their mission is at times quixotic and, frankly, they leave the naysaying to the other 90 percent of the school body.

The USG presidential debate was a poignant reminder of just how quixotic campus life feels at times. The democratic spirit upon which university life thrives had been condensed into a spectacle: the solitary presidential candidate, debating a laptop, in a noisy room wedged behind Baruch’s escalators. He was visibly uncomfortable, and one could wonder what made him most uncomfortable. Was it debating a candidate who was not even on campus, yet felt qualified to speak to student concerns? Was it seeing the room occupied solely by Ticker staff and Baruch Believes party members? Was it knowing that he would win not on this platform or his real commitment to Baruch, but on a lack of alternatives?

Many students saw this spectacle and laughed. But without a doubt, many club leaders felt wounded by it. In that candidate on stage, they saw themselves: full of ideas and drive, but surrounded by noise and flippancy, and utterly alone.