This election season, I became fascinated and engrossed by the Republican presidential primary campaigns. Each debate offered another peek through the looking glass. From candidates forgetting their platforms at the dais to others throwing down $10,000 bets, just about the only thing missing from the checklist of insanity was the candidates forming up a Voltron-style uber-candidate on stage.
Tonight, such a superhuman emerged on Brown’s own campus: Robert Bentlyewski ’13. Seamlessly combining Rick Perry’s pride in his academic shortcomings, Herman Cain’s pedigree as a drinking buddy, Rick Santorum’s folksiness, Ron Paul’s penchant for standing in the corner and demanding we burn government to the ground and nothing related to Mitt Romney – who was apparently busy occupying the body of David Rattner ’13 – Bentlyewski made his case for the Undergraduate Council of Student presidency in front of a disappointingly not-quite capacity crowd. Over the course of what felt like substantially more than an hour, he made the most energizing case of the three candidates for office.
The fundamental raison d’etre of Bentylewski’s candidacy, as he explains it, is simple: UCS as it stands is both inefficient and completely out of touch with the student body. Primarily, Bentlyewski cited his shock when he heard UCS’s proposal to set its own funding. “What do they spend their money on?” he said he wondered. And the fact is, he’s onto something. Brown is inundated with student groups, many of which serve essentially the same purpose. How many groups for peace in the Middle East do we really need?
Bentylewski’s plan to rectify the situation is, at its most basic, a pure conservative’s take on college governance. From what I could tell, his plan is to boil down student government to its pre-reform size, privatize funding by making clubs primarily responsible for their own fundraising and sit back and watch as the market for club funds decides which student groups survive and thrive, and which fade out of existence.
Now, when applied to general social policy on a national scale, this ethos is unfair, unrealistic and flat-out dangerous – it will lead to abject poverty, absurd distributions of wealth and general socioeconomic chaos. But in the frame of reference of student organizations at a school that has too many, it just might work. Cut off from its funding and left with no way to sustain itself, a student club does not turn to crime or live in a cardboard box. It simply drifts on, and students who would have perhaps joined it are more than welcome to join the dozens of other nearly-identical groups on campus, who now, with more funding, can achieve even greater things. Seems reasonable.
Overall, if you didn’t attend the UCS debate, and the odds are that you didn’t, my recommendation is as follows. If you want an incredibly safe, incredibly qualified, incredibly competent and incredibly conventional candidate, vote for Rattner. But if you are like me and never took interest in student government before yesterday, and you think it would be cool to see a new approach in action, then choose Bentlyewski – he feels the same way.
Jake Golden ’14 didn’t know what UCS stood for until last night.