Truth or D.A.R.E. – A Risky Game of Ethics


Alexander L. Yu

One of the most important and controversial measures on the UC Santa Barbara spring 2011 ballot was the D.A.R.E. referendum—which stands for Developing Athletics Resource for Facility Enhancements. D.A.R.E., if approved, would have cost each student $44.50 per quarter in new fees, with $11.13 of that amount having gone toward financial aid for future prospective students. Quite a hefty fee per student—the typical four-year Gaucho would have to pay $534 in extra fees for this referendum alone — but supporters argue that is nothing compared to the 6-digit figure we’re shelling out for undergraduate studies. But why the princely sum? According to the F.A.Q. on D.A.R.E., the money would have been used to upgrade older buildings, improve “green” and sustainability options, and reduce waste. It sounds like a decent reason to get rid of older things for newer ones.

But they forgot one important item from that list: the money is also being used to bribe students into voting for their referendum.

During the week of voting, I saw several female soccer players in the library spreading the message about the importance of D.A.R.E. However, I was far more concerned with the tactics they used to gain supporters. From the several students I saw them approach, each supporter would introduce herself, ask the student if they voted for the referendum, and would then direct the student to the website to help them vote “yes” on the measure, closely staring down and denying the student’s potential option of deviating from this. Then, after allowing the student to (somewhat) vote freely, they would allow them to take some candy out of a bag. Finally, for the more sexually-aspiring men, phone numbers were exchanged or new Facebook friends added.

How could this be? For some, corruption and bribery sounds like a virulent disease from poorly-institutionalized third-world countries, and even the thought that it exists in such an organized state as ours is incredible. For others, a scene plays out from a nighttime club where guys slip the bouncer several Benjamins to get in, while girls flash them instead. Unfortunately, human ambitions, when strong enough, force us to take any and all options possible to achieve our desired goals. For the D.A.R.E. supporters, their ambitions conveyed that this referendum was very important.

Bribery is actually a far more serious crime outside of college, and could show possible signs of corruption in our country’s leaders (who are supposedly the most moral and upstanding people out of all 300-plus million of us). Some of the attentive public can recall the most recent November midterm elections in the state of Arizona, where Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle accused Senate Majority Leader and Incumbent Harry Reid of “buying” the votes of college students with pizza and directing them to vote in a nearby library. No matter if the rumors are indeed true, even the mere accusation of corruption can taint a person’s career forever. Richard Nixon, for example, surrendered many of his law licenses after his resignation from office and even after his successor, Gerald Ford, officially pardoned him, both Nixon and Ford kept negative connotations throughout the rest of their lives and in our present day as well.

But some argue that the D.A.R.E. incident in fact, isn’t truly bribery. Cries of “everyone’s offering free stuff” or “it’s not related to the election” ring out among supporters of this persuasive method. However, even offering one penny in exchange for someone’s vote is extremely unethical, and pawning the blame off on others is even more so. Fortunately, students and voters are usually more educated than bribers believe, and in most cases, the ploys of corruption to gain votes are unsuccessful. Despite this, corruption is far from completely eliminated. Students are still encouraged to remain informed about any pending student body decisions, because awareness by the educated public is the first step to rooting out corruption in our society. And if the referendum had been passed, would D.A.R.E. supporters, or even just students for that matter, really feel comfortable and proud that the victory may have been accomplished dishonestly with bribes, as compared to sincere support by a majority of the students?