By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
The editorial reads like something we’ve written lately.
“The SA Constitution is not just a piece of paper,” the Optimist opined 15 years ago. “The SA’s latest blatant disregard of its Constitution,” etc. etc. etc.
In the 1988 executive officer elections, the president staffed the election booth with Senate members in clear violation of the By-Laws, which required non-members to take and count the votes.
Blaine McCormick, president at the time, said he chose the “reliability” of Senate members over the “impartiality” of service volunteers. Never mind that an election is nothing, if not impartial.
The Optimist jumped on McCormick for his seeming inability to grasp the nuances of following the rules, adding a jibe:
“But the student body doesn’t care, or so McCormick contends, and we tend to agree.”
Just another episode in a long and healthy rivalry.
Three Optimist editors served as SA presidents before World War II, and the Optimist kept an SA representative until 1977’s final, bloody break-up.
But relationships have been tense more often than not. In 1955, Optimist editor Charlie Marler, now professor emeritus of journalism, poked fun at SA after it lost its only copy of the By-Laws. Officers responded with veiled threats.
Candy Holcombe, the editor whose paper jumped on McCormick’s inventive interpretation of the law, said later in the year, “We’re not going to be buddy-buddy. If they’re doing something that’s against their Constitution, do we let them … because they’re students? I don’t think so.”
As a result, McCormack told an Optimist 75th-anniversary retrospective, relations between the two student groups were “always tense” in the late 1980s.
But in the late 1970s, a Constitutional battle began when Jan Taylor, who represented the Optimist, KACU-FM and the Prickly Pear, resigned, citing “conflict of interest.”
Despite being required to find replacements before accepting resignations, the Senate decided to obey the “spirit” of the Constitution, rather than what it said. It accepted Taylor’s resignation without replacing her or amending the document.
Editor Ron Hadfield, now director of Creative Services, called the meeting “disappointing,” noting “the Senate was in an obviously defensive mood over several things, specifically what some considered unfair and slanted news coverage.”
Hadfield wrote that the meeting grew “out of control” and featured verbal attacks against the Optimist.
“It is part of the student media’s responsibility to ‘watch’ student government for the students,” he wrote. “If that is considered making trouble, then there are some values confused somewhere.”
And so it has continued: In 1974, the Optimist opposed SA president Kelly Utsinger’s attempt to boycott Sing Song. A 2002 editorial slammed Congress for granting thousands of dollars for a concert that never happened the way it was promised.
In recent years, we have had no shortage of issues, as SA totters closer to a Constitutional crisis. Its members and officers have ignored or played creatively spectacular games with the election rules, the By-Laws, the Constitution and the Student Guide.
The Optimist has been the student body’s eyes and ears in SA meetings for 82 years, whether the students care or not. And the resulting conflict between the media and the government has produced fantastic debate and legitimate change on this campus.
So, here’s to 82 more years of healthy antagonism.