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It’s kind of challenging to live and document the living at the same time. You need to have your full focus in two places at once — one, on actual life, and the other, on creating a meaningful record of the actual life. I was never the kind of person who was able to take photographs while on vacation. I’d return home with a roll (or memory stick) with about a dozen photos from the first two days, and not much else. You’d think I’d lost my camera.

The question becomes, for me, how do I leave a trail — one that I can annotate — of a process like running for public office? How do I — but only inasmuch as I need to to earn a degree — document something that is fraught with emotional and intellectual investment, without losing that sense of investment, while at the same time conveying a convincing, affective sense of how the process worked?

The first great thing is that I can create an archive of every email I sent and received about the electoral process. This is relatively easy — I just need to find a place and a way to store this stuff (preferably online) that gives me the tools to annotate it. We’ve been looking at Omeka for another project, but making an Omeka site as the comprehensive documentation of what has been happening to me lately seems like a really good possibility, as well.

This is also useful because eventually we might make a book about this. Filled with reproductions of campaign ephemera, transcripts of speeches, and early drafts of official documents (including those scrawled on by friends and such), and ideally bound with a version of our campaign poster, I’ve been thinking about this book for a while now.

The other thing of it is — I need a little help parsing what happened these past few months. I feel a little like I took everything I understood about what I am and what I’m doing with my life, upended it, and shook it. A lot of stuff fell out. A lot of stuff got rearranged. The future today looks different from the way it looked at the beginning of the semester. That’s good, in a way. It’s also frightening. But, as Shasti said, say hello to the new normal.

(On that note this site is going to be getting an overhaul soon. Might be offline for a few weeks.)

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I don’t think I’ve written about the choice to run for GSA executive board here at all. As many of my more regular readers are undoubtedly aware, I do fancy myself a bit of a public intellectual and I think that civic involvement is both my right and my duty. I think I’ve found a situation that I can address from my perspective and my power, and add something to with my skills and knowledge. I want to make clear here that what I write in this blog is not the official line of our coalition, but rather my reasons for being a part of it.

One of the things that excites me most about the election is the very real possibility that we stand on the cusp of change. This is a critical time for public higher education, and it is also a critical time for the SUNY system, with Albany crumbling and funding drying up from the public sector. I don’t think I’m the only UB graduate student who’s alarmed by these developments — far from it. In fact, this isn’t an issue that is limited to people who are supposed to be “left-wing intellectuals” anymore. The public university is a critical site for scientific research, too — the kind of scientific research that needs to take place without being beholden to shareholders, for example.

Many newly-minted Ph.D.s and others with terminal degrees are being siphoned off to universities abroad. Now, I don’t think there’s a problem with finding a job in another country — I have fantasies about pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Copenhagen — but if U.S. institutions can’t keep Americans here, the American university system is going to go hollow. But more immediately than that, current graduate students are suffering because all kinds of resources are drying up. These are only some of the complaints and concerns I hear from graduate students. I also think that, if we combine our forces and present a united front, we might have a shot at getting listened to.

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Maybe one of the more interesting experiences for me getting inside of the Graduate Student Association mechanisms is the fact that I have resigned myself to playing the system from the inside rather than changing it. I don’t think the system as it stands is exactly the most effective or most just way of taking care of business, but I have other fish to fry. Changing the culture of GSA to something more amenable to innovation is something I’m not interested in taking on at this point — as it stands I’ve been made to feel like a bit of an upstart anyway. I don’t mind that role, I just don’t want to go around bashing people’s heads because I’ve been assigned the role.

In any case, I’ve been thinking about the possible critique of the way we’re beginning to change our department GSA. We’ve begun steering people towards collaboration — or at least sharing — with GSA as a vehicle for projects, as opposed to having people propose things scattershot. It turns out that it’s easier to get funding for your projects if you’re willing to coordinate your efforts and avoid proposing a bunch of projects all at once — while all our projects are pretty cool and definitely deserving of funding, I think the broader GSA organization has reservations about allocating too much money to one department at a time.

Yet encouraging people to work with a self-imposed organizational structure seems a little contradictory to the idea that we want everyone to be doing as much stuff as often as possible as they can manage. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to add a little order to the chaos — at least this way we can keep track of each other, share information, support each others’ efforts, and at the very least bounce ideas around. I don’t like being in charge of bureaucracy, but it’s better than the alternative. (I don’t even know if the alternative would get us anywhere.)

If I come up with anything better, I’ll let you know: I abhor bureaucratic systems as much as anyone, for what it’s worth. I’m frustrated with being forced to play the system as opposed to change it, but I would rather work on my projects and support someone in changing it than I am in truly spearheading an effort for change. Lazy? Maybe. Self-centered? Definitely. But I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

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