Student Government’s (SG) College Council (CC) made an executive decision on Tuesday to disallow non-CC members from subscribing to its listhost. This move significantly undermines CC’s obligation to the student body. Not only does it run contrary to some of the fundamental ideals of the current SG Slate and SG as a whole; it also compromises the rights of undergraduate students regarding their administrative representation.
By removing student access to an important CC forum, SG compromises its principle of transparency, a cornerstone of the whole operation. Article One, Section Five of the SG Constitution is an explicit affirmation of transparency, stating that “all meetings, impeachment trials, and other operations of the SG shall be open to [the student body].” Since the listhost acts as a candid record of the Council’s discussions, closing it off to non-Council subscribers denies them their documented right to have access to the operations of SG. Although only a small minority of subscribers was comprised of non-Council members, and a significant portion of the discussion concerns mundane, procedural matters, all students should still have the ability to receive such information.
LIVEChicago, the current SG slate and executive branch of the Council, cited heightened transparency as part of its campaign platform. Its election statement mentions creating “a direct line of communication for student ideas and concerns.” In addition to documenting minutes, the listhost acted as a forum for members to develop new ideas and comment on the management of the Council itself. What could be a more direct line of communication than an ongoing, up-to-date thread on Council efforts between its members and their constituents?
When questioned about the change, SG President Youssef Kalad said that the reasoning behind the decision was that members had complained about non-members using the listhost to criticize Council ideas still in their early stages. He and other members wanted to make the listhost a place where they could “throw out crazy ideas…without fear of judgment and criticism.” College Council members should recognize that, as representatives of the undergraduate student body, part of their job involves receiving criticism on their ideas even if they aren’t fully developed. Instead of taking offense to the opinions, they should use them to further refine their ideas.
The official SG listhost will begin carrying Council minutes and developments. This will not be a proper replacement for the CC listhost, but will instead restrict the free flow of information. Simply by virtue of it being an official, comprehensive listhost, any news sent through it will have been selectively chosen by its members. The old listhost, on the other hand, presented a raw, unfiltered account of the Council’s actions. Only through this genuine medium could the student body properly monitor its representatives.
Although it was a quick executive decision, it has a broad and serious effect on the relationship between SG and the student body it represents. It even stands to divide the College Council itself. The motion was put to a vote only after its implementation, polarizing CC’s members and even causing one to threaten resignation. The SG Slate and CC need to realize that they are at fault in more ways than one. Any government that prides itself on transparency should take it far more seriously than Tuesday’s decision has demonstrated.
The Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member. Peter Ianakiev recused himself from the writing of this editorial.