Democracy means people power
When the word democracy and the name of a country are in the same sentence, democracy is treated like a yes or no question.
Democracy isn’t a simple concept; it is a principle that different societies and groups exercise in different forms, and to different extents.
Taken from its Greek roots, dêmos, meaning people, and kratos, meaning power, the true meaning of democracy is shown to be the power of the people — but more specifically, through a collective representative power of the people.
Anyone turning on the news in the past month has seen democracy in action: from workers in Wisconsin, to entire societies like Egypt and Tunisia. People are taking to the streets, united and empowered, and they are changing the world.
Looking at democracy in this way, as a varied principle rather than a label to feel good about, shows something distinctively lacking in American, Texan and University society.
The US government does not ensure basic workers’ rights for all government employees, and Texas has already deprived state workers the rights Wisconsin natives are fighting for. This is why UH is understaffed and UH workers are underpaid. UH jobs maintain poverty in communities, rather than lifting workers out of it.
At UH, we have a president who was not elected by the community, but hired by a government-approved board of regents. She and her administration make huge decisions that affect the school, but most members of the UH community have no say in who gets that power, how they wield it or if that much power should be concentrated in so few people.
All the while, students pay more in tuition and fees every year, and lower-level UH employees face salary freezes, rolling furloughs (forced time off) and lay-offs.
Without enough democracy, students, faculty and other workers have no say in important decisions, like contracting private companies who inflate prices and exploit workers.
AFC, the company that runs UH shuttles, pays drivers under the poverty pay level — half of what METRO pays its drivers. Aramark, the company running UH Dining, also pays poverty wages, and forces student residents to buy meal plans with no refund or roll over policy for unused meals, while refusing to disclose their budget to the University community.
People power is like potential energy: always there, even when we don’t see it. More Cougars have to stand up and make their voices heard to see what a democratic university looks like.