Student Government and clubs at NYU Shanghai are unpaid positions that every year members of our Student Body fill despite the excess of paid internships, part-time jobs and teaching positions available in Shanghai. Therefore, anyone who chooses to run for Student Government and plans on dedicating hours of their time each week to serving our community deserves every other student’s respect. Lashing out at those who are committing to serve you and dedicate their time to fight on your behalf, whether or not you agree with them or had a bad experience with them in the past, is ignoring the problem at hand.
Furthermore, the students that do take part in Student Government will be performing their duties thanklessly. Not once have I seen proper appreciation for a single Student Government in my four years at NYU Shanghai. Let’s look at the complete lack of appreciation for five members on the Events Committee of Student Government who planned an entire music festival for everyone to enjoy – and now, a month later, are planning a Spring Formal. Moreover, students are choosing not to attend (putting their hard work to waste) due to our shocking lack of school spirit and unwillingness to integrate and mingle with other classes. Plus there’s no alcohol and, so I’m told, it’s a waste of time.
I forgot that we all attend this university made up of students that feel more comfortable posting on Facebook and calling out their peers and classmates through a screen rather than sitting down and getting their hands dirty trying to make this school a better place. Now that it’s gotten to be a tad dramatic and finals are approaching and everyone is a little stressed, we’re all more than happy to bombard the All Classes Facebook page with posts and comments, gossiping in the halls with one another.
What if we all acknowledged that we attend a small university that is basically a toddler at this point? There’s going to be issues. There’s going to be things you dislike. There might even be people that you don’t like. If you have problems with the institution or the people that are willing to fix them for you, actually run and try to solve them yourself with your own bright ideas rather than complaining that you don’t like anyone else’s.
The best thing about NYU Shanghai is that it’s new. We’re growing and all of us as the first classes of the institution are able to have an impact on the ways in which the university grows. Student Government needs to grow and change with the institution, since it is now aiming to serve more students than ever before. But, for all of Student Government’s faults, they serve the Student Body and are composed of the Student Body. Our Student Body’s apathy towards their work is not compensated for by the outpouring of complaints at tense times of the year. This is the root of the problem.
When did we decide that the best way to have debates and share our complaints was on the Facebook group? Now, our debates are limited to comments that get deleted – but not before being screenshotted to be made into memes and then shared at the commenter’s expense. Anytime this newspaper attempts to bring the debates to a more constructive platform, nine times out of ten students say they don’t want to be quoted for fear of a future employer seeing it. Let’s make one thing clear – if it’s something that would make you not get a job you otherwise deserved, it’s better off not to be posted on our Facebook group.
More importantly, stick by your convictions. If you believe something strongly enough don’t simply engage in a full-blown multi-comment argument during the middle of the day when you should be in class or at night when I’m hoping you have better things to do than examining screenshots that your friends have sent you of Instagram stories or plotting out what exactly you should say that will best belittle a fellow member of our community.
Would it not be so much better if you sat down and penned a thoughtful opinion piece and submitted it to On Century Avenue? Better yet, what if you sat down and planned out how exactly you as Director of the Student Life and Residential Committee next year are planning to get a nap room back? Or, we could all acknowledge that we pay for a dorm room or an apartment and we should prize our sleep that we’re losing over staying up at night arguing with one another – and remember the important things. Things that we can all get behind and as a student body we really need to know.
Such as: Wouldn’t it be really great if a Student Body President ran on actual things that matter to everyone? What if they promised to have conversations with our administration about talking to their paying customers (us) before they make decisions that inherently change the structure of our university and then force us to adapt on the fly? The success with getting the third semester study abroad policy changed was great. Wouldn’t it be even better if we managed to get them to appoint a committee of students that they would consult on such important decisions? Hold on a minute – that’s what Student Government should have been doing the whole time. Where is our effective intermediary fighting on our behalf?
Members of Student Government deserve our respect, and to that end, I encourage a healthy discourse on their actions, holding them accountable for the proposals they put forth and the work they perform on our behalf – as well as pointing out when they have let us down. We need to find a way to critique their actions in a way that will lead to a thought-out solution to the problem at hand and appreciate the time they put in rather than lambasting them publicly to earn likes on a comment.
We should push them to put forth proposals that would change our mindset of addressing problems. What if all of our Student Government candidates stopped promising to make the cafeteria better (oddly enough, we actually pay administration members to run a proper bidding process and negotiate the contracts for us) and we all addressed the problem that we have unrealistic expectations for the quality of food we want to eat versus the price we’re willing to pay? Furthermore, if our university manages to earn itself a bad reputation as a cafeteria, you’ll be forced to order 饿了么 that you won’t have time to eat before your next class. Now, not only will all of our students be stressed and tired, we will also be hangry during Facebook debates.
We should ask them to change up the framework directing our thinking and come up with new ways to run the school. What if our Student Body President made a commitment to getting the classes more integrated? What if the Events Committee changed up the events and asked for new ideas from students rather than repeating the same events each year, especially if prices for venues are increasing and students aren’t willing to pay the extra money? What if rather than having a Spring Formal since everyone is too cool for a sober three hours on a Friday night, we dreamed up something different that would bring all of the classes together?
Oh wait, maybe you don’t have secret brilliant plans, but only more complaints. Perhaps it’s because you haven’t dedicated hours of unpaid time to thinking up ideas on how to make the school a better place not just for yourself, but for everyone else too. Step up and take a deep breath, students of NYU Shanghai, maybe it’s time to admit that you’re responsible for your own problems – and you should try to fix them yourselves and not disrespect the people who try.
This article was written by Allison Chesky. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: NYU Shanghai