The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Confessions of a politico junkie

This is a column about politicos, and it's the last one I'll ever write. I've followed them for almost three years now. I've been in their offices, their cars and their apartments. I've eaten lunch with them, gone out for drinks with them and spent too many hours interviewing them on the phone. In the course of those years, through the interviews and the elections and the afternoons spent on the third floor of Newcomb Hall, something about the politico mystique kept me captivated.

I started my involvement in the politico world because I didn't have a choice - I was a reporter, and it was my job to cover Student Council. I could have left it at that, but I didn't.

The University has too few students who really care about things - whether it's issues, organizations or some other facet of life here in Charlottesville. I got to spend three years working with people who loved the University intensely, who wanted to make it better and were proud of their accomplishments. Documenting what they did in the pages of this newspaper was a great honor.

I covered one of the most ridiculous election appeals in history - those of you who were not here in spring 1999 missed quite a show. I watched people who had become my friends rise higher and higher among the ranks of student leaders, affecting more positive change with each new position they took.

I immersed myself in politico culture - both the good and the bad parts of it. I learned about leadership, dedication and the importance of making sure your bow tie is straight. I saw what student leaders did for the University and what their experiences gave back to them.

Now, some people say the University politico system is dying, that things won't be the same again, that no one cares about the institutions that make this place unique. They think it could be time to hand the place over to administrators and say we tried, but student self-governance just doesn't work anymore. Maybe people simply don't care the same way they used to.

Of course I've noticed changes. And the thought of things not remaining the way they always have been saddens me.

Student self-governance is what makes the University different from every other State U. out there. Politico culture, despite all the negative connotations that go along with it, is a big part of that.

Yes, politicos can be pompous and arrogant. But some of them are only involved to make connections or to pad their resumes. Some care more about getting elected than about serving the constituency that elected them, and some feel that the color of a shirt is more important than the makeup of your character.

But that's a very small portion of what I have found to be a dedicated and smart group of individuals. Even though the trappings of politicodom may receive a great deal of attention, that's not really what it's all about. The death of politico culture would mean the death of something that has played a large role in the University's success - a commitment to serving the best interests of the student body, to demanding respect from the administration and making the students' voices heard. Losing that would be something worth mourning, and it's a trend I hope reverses itself in the coming years.

As this is my last column and the last time my byline will appear in a regular issue of The Cavalier Daily, I feel obligated to thank the people who made this amazing experience possible. Thanks to the student leaders who put up with my incessant questioning and nosiness. I also need to thank the people who read anything I wrote - from my family and roommates, who faithfully read every word, to the people who just saw my name on the way to the crossword puzzle. You all provided me with a great opportunity.

Finally, I must thank an inanimate object - which I admit is extremely weird. The Cavalier Daily is much more than a hunk of newsprint. It is a collection of people who amaze me every day with their courage, tenacity and dedication to both their organization and to each other. For three years, I did work I loved with people I loved, and I am a better person for it.

The same person who once drunkenly convinced me he was a member of the Seven Society also has criticized me for always taking too long to say goodbye, and it looks like I've done it again. So I guess I'll just end this here.

Toodles, y'all.

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