By Welmoed van Ens
An election statement that centers around football and dresscodes, followed by a speech composed of song lyrics and trivial facts: Mohammad Akbar-style campaigning. His speech was entertaining, but was it appropriate? Is it disrespectful to take such a mocking stance in front of candidates who do take the elections very seriously?
When I asked future ASC Chair IngeSchrijver about Mohammad’s one-man show, she replied that it evoked mixed feelings. “On the one hand I didn’t like it, but on the other hand it’s a sign that ASC isn’t valued very much and we need to work on this.” Inge explains that this is a recurring issue with ASC and that she and her board mean to continue improving visibility.
“Mohammad is free to do whatever he wants,” Inge says. “It’s his opinion and I’m fine with him expressing that.” She does add that “although he brought some fun into the elections, it is important for everyone to know that ASC is still serious business.”
Mohammad himself refrained from commenting, as he believed he had conveyed his message sufficiently. He advised me to go ahead and pass judgement (and suit up). Judging from his speech he clearly thinks ASC has some issues. It might be true that our academic student council is underappreciated. It might be true that election statements are a succession of clichés. But what did we expect? Behind the scenes academic work is never going to be as popular as parties and free beer?
“Sometimes clichés are clichés for a reason. Every ASC says they want to improve visibility, simply because it’s true. In the end those are the issues that need to be tackled,” Inge responds.
Despite the time and effort ASC members invest, their work is often met with skepticism, as made clear during a recent episode of Super Sticky Surfaces. The portrayal of ASC as an organization that solves non-existent crimes was greeted with enthusiastic cheering and applause. “It is, again, double. I laughed. I found it funny. But it also showed that students think that ASC doesn’t do anything,” Inge said.
Fortunately, our future ASC chair has a sense of humor. She is fully aware of the popularity issue and thinks it is important for ASC to appeal to students. At the same time, she wants to stress that ASC is, and always will be, a more formal affair. “When you talk about real business it’s serious. Of course you can make jokes, but eventually you need to take action.”
No matter how true or relevant the criticism is, it should be delivered respectfully and constructively. There is nothing wrong with taking serious issues and joking about them; humor can spark interest and eventually change. I don’t see how elections are a suitable platform for mockery and comedy. It seems rather cowardly to me to make a show out of pointing out problems without contributing solutions. Raising awareness is great, but the end doesn’t always justify the means.