The Harms Hegemony is a period of time in ASUCD History in which inter-slate competition fell to a record low, and undergraduate student politics was largely dominated by the L.E.A.D. group. This period lasted from the Fall term of 2005 through the Winter of 2011.
|Eras of ASUCD|
|ASUCD PerestroikaFall 2004 - Spring 2005|
|Harms HegemonyFall 2006 - Winter 2011|
|Current Era (Unnamed)Winter 2011 -|
Building the Coalition
Although named after one of its key figures, Paul Harms, the roots of the hegemony slip back into the days of ASUCD Perestroika. James Schwab, a student in his later-twenties, came into ASUCD with a lot of connections to the Democratic Party. Along with Caliph Assagai, a similarly well-connected individual through his family, he organized the progressive-ethnic constituencies of students into a group that could win. Aided by the instability in the election created by the SOSSS slate and Student Focus' own mistakes (Ackerman resigned), they won election in 2004.
In general, student governments everywhere are dominated by one of two factions: the fraternities and sororities, or ethnic/cultural and progressive interest groups. This typically corresponds to an emphasis on one of student government's roles: providing student activities, and advocating for students, repectively. But Schwab and his allies realized that they could more effectively reach out to a major voting bloc by joining fraternities themselves.
While cultural groups have proven to be exceptionally resistant to capture, many Greek-letter organizations will continue to vote for a slate because a brother or sister ran with them years ago. So one by one, the progressives turned many campus fraternities to favor LEAD, by joining them or finding exceptional existing members to run for office. This also had a positive effect on the Greek system in general, as they turned some organizations that had well, problems, into among the most progressive and active organizations on campus.
Entering into this system was a young Paul Harms, who fairly early on had decided to take over the student government, in a ha-ha-joking-but-sorta-serious way. He came into the Internal Affairs Commission as a freshman, correctly realizing from the name that is was the most powerful commission in ASUCD. Despite being fairly attractive (as the author knows a few females who still swoon over him), he decided to shoot for an unelected office, that of the ASUCD Controller. And to do so, Harms saw the way the wind was blowing and joined LEAD — despite his own conservative values.
And thus began the hegemony — Harms and his later allies provided assistance and expertise to candidates running for office. Expertise that, once elected, they had come to depend on. Schwab trained the young LEADers into a campaign machine, that was, for the first time in ASUCD history, carried on from year to year. These campaigners would become commissioners — partially as the spoils of war, but partially because they were better trained to be part of the system.
So while the ethnic and progressive interests, along with Greek candidates represented the public face of ASUCD, its internal structure was taken over by LEAD allies trained to be bureaucrats.
Advocacy for Everyone
These allies to the progressive party ended up coming from the most surprising of sources: conservatives. Student Focus had started with more conservative leanings, and conservatives had administratively captured the advocacy units (State and National Affairs Office and Lobby Corps, in particular). This was a fairly unique opportunity for conservative students, especially in the progressive UC system. Unfortunately for them, Focus was more interested in on-campus activites, and spent a lot of income outsourcing advocacy to an the statewide student group, UCSA.
The big problem for them was that the UC Student Association was filled with progressive activists — but the bigger problem was that it was filled with idiots. Eventually, the conservatives got Schwab to listen, and eventually the Internal Affairs Commission decided that the external advocacy was such a large issue as to be an internal problem. Recently minted graduate student (and SOSSS veteran) Brent Laabs was dispatched to UCSA to deal with the problem, and ended up pulling a lot of IAC people in to see the organization. The combined efforts of IAC, James Schwab, Liz Burrell, Brent Laabs, and Paul Harms finally resulted in a break from UCSA — and an infusion of funds in the advoacy units.
So the conservatives ended up as devoted to LEAD as the progressives, in the end. ASUCD didn't raise fees, they ran things internally relatively smoothly, and they got to be bona-fide lobbyists in the state capitol for consensus issues, like reducing student fees. And all of this was still more effective than screaming at the regents from outside the meeting. Since the era coincided with the Arnold Schwarzenegger's term as Governor, efforts to stop fee increases had limited success. Yet the progressive campaigns of UCSA met with even less success, because there was no way in hell a 2000s era Republican governor would sign the Dream Act.
When Paul Harms finally took office as Controller, a position he held for the majority of his college career, he solidified the alliance. Units were streamlined, revenue was raised, and ASUCD made a serious impact on the administrative advisory committees. New students were trained to continue the cycle, and most LEAD partisans had an established niche. The once proud Student Focus faded to a mere memory, and upstart parties like GO couldn't gather much momentum against the LEAD juggernaut.
End of the Era
Like all stories of better times, this one too has an end. After Harms graduated, his legacy was carried on by Controller Eli Yani. However, LEAD lost the 2009 Presidential election by a mere 13 votes, as many of ASUCD's bureaucratic/conservative elements had broken for Chris Dietrich, a more moderate Independent. The crux here is that the LEAD campaign machine was a carefully constructed alliance of competing interests that quickly fell apart once a group of "independents" formed an alliance to elect a very charismatic leader Joe Chatham. In essence LEAD thrived on either ruthlessly discrediting opponents or a lack of opposition for a few elections and once the Independent faux-slate arose it was like a hydra with too many heads to kill. The loss of the election created further divisions between these interests, as some LEAD members wanted to contest the election and others did not.
The following year, the cultural interests split into a new party, JAM, leaving the LEAD slate which their predecessors had founded. The LEAD campaign machine managed to elect their slate of moderate-progressives, including the DCD's Jack Zwald and Previn Witana, but the focus of the party had left for the most part. Recruitment, and profile fell with the loss of the most progressive advocates, and the LEAD machine was left with too few left to train for the next generation.
For ten straight elections, from Fall 2005 through Winter 2010, LEAD won at least half of the seats in each Senate election and all but one Presidential election. The following election, Fall 2010, was the last ASUCD election that LEAD contested and they won only 1 Senate seat. A new slate, BOLD, won 4 Senate seats in that election and then went on to win 4 more Senate seats and the Presidency in the Winter 2011 election. The Fall 2010 election was the last gasp of LEAD with the Winter 2011 election being the proof when LEAD did not run any candidates in the election.
The Harms Hegemony finally ended in Winter 2011, with the end of Jack Zwald's presidency.
The Hegemony left behind a legacy of revamped bylaws — which are still never going to make ASUCD Elections any less scandalous, but they tried. As the era had a large number of technocrats, they instituted a Long Range Planning process for every unit, replacing the old Administrative Plans. This went along with other measures to make units more efficient, such as finding hundreds of dollars in unused phone bills. Units like Refrigerator Services and the Aggie Student Store became profitable once again, even as the Capital Reserves began to take a huge hit from the Coffee House remodel.
However, due to compromises with conservatives and a long, sustained period of steeply increasing undergraduate student fees, they were never able to address one of the key problems of ASUCD: that revenue would continue to shrink until a new student fee referendum is passed. During the Swords and Stadiums Era, fee increases had been passed on a regular basis, but ASUCD campaigned to give it all to the administration, primarily for UCD Athletics capital projects. Relatively smart cutting and fundraising softened the blow, as well as the end of the $23,000 annual costs of UCSA stopped the bleeding, it cannot be denied that the scope of ASUCD remained substantially less than in the 1970s and 1980s — and will continue to remain so until the 1979 $8/quarter general fund fee is raised.
They instituted the Outreach Assembly, as an effort to replace failed outreach to clubs and student organizations. Though this became yet another failed attempt to outreach to student organizations. The OA remained poorly funded to the end. Many — perhaps most student governments provide funding directly to clubs, and thus have no issues getting the attention of student organizations. But ASUCD continued to outsource that function to the Club Finance Council via SPAC/Center for Student Involvement, which maintained grassroots support due to its funding. This policy does have its advantages, however, as many of the issues you see in terms of cronyism in other governments (especially ASUC) simply did not exist.
The advocacy policy of ASUCD was radically changed and strengthened, with Lobby Corps being well-funded and grown. The ASUCD State and National Affairs Office was transformed into the ASUCD University Affairs Office, and given a clearer mission than "be the guy who goes to the UCSA meeting." Finally, the break with UCSA was made more or less official policy, as a constitutional amendment was passed prohibiting a specific fee increase for outside organizations (read:UCSA). Given how tight the budget is, there cannot be enough funding to rejoin without a fee increase for the General Fund or some truly drastic cuts.