College Council Considers New Transparency Bylaw

CC Chair introduced the bylaw following controversy at last week’s meeting on divestment.

By Emily Feigenbaum

Transparency and transportation were at the foreground of discussion at this week’s College Council (CC) meeting. Representatives considered a bylaw that would always allow recording and photography in CC meetings and discussed how to capture representatives’ votes that were not recorded during the previous week’s divestment debate.

In response to the upset regarding CC’s decision to prohibit the recording of last week’s U of C Divest vote, CC Chair Eric Holmberg introduced a new transparency bylaw that would be added as Section 8 to Article IV of the CC Bylaws:

“College Council shall not prohibit photography or the use of recording devices at its meetings.”

Debate ensued as CC members pondered the limits that photography and recording may impose on the free exchange of ideas and safety of non-CC participants at weekly meetings. Some were concerned that the language of the proposed amendment would not allow flexibility in extraordinary circumstances.

Class of 2016 representative Holly Rapp expressed concern that the presence of recording devices could limit the discussion of sensitive topics, citing conversation about sexual assault policy as an example. Arguing for a more “nuanced” approach to addressing the need for CC transparency, Rapp described the introduction of a transparency bylaw as reactionary.

Cosmo Albrecht, second-year representative, agreed with Rapp. Conceding that photography and recording are beneficial to “real world” politics, Albrecht emphasized that CC was not part of that realm. Albrecht added that a no-holds-barred transparency policy is “ridiculous” and CC should be allowed to decide if recording is an option ahead of time.

Fourth-year representative Mark Sands questioned the phrasing of the proposed bylaw, suggesting that it be framed in the affirmative. Sands furthermore stated that upset over the previous week’s lack of transparency was a reaction to the failure to adequately discuss permitting recordings at the meeting.

Audience members in the back of the room voiced concern over the legality of prohibiting recording at meetings, questioning whether there was an expectation of privacy at CC meetings and whether it is a matter of state law. Fourth-year and active debater Nick Saffran recorded the entire meeting on his camera.

Saffran told The Maroon that though he has never attended a CC meeting in the past, he will “absolutely” be at all future meetings pertaining to increasing transparency.

“I recorded it first and foremost because the students have the right to know exactly what is done and said at the meetings of those who supposedly represent our moral voice…. So, in short, I recorded it simply because I have every right to record it,” he stated.

Fourth-year representative Mike Viola questioned the timing of the bylaw’s introduction as election season begins. Describing the timing of the discussion as “politically motivated,” Viola argued that this bylaw was a means to pressure CC members into making a reactionary decision regarding the transparency controversy in last week’s meeting.

“We have to table it until after the election,” Viola stated.

A motion requesting to table the discussion until next week’s meeting, which will take place after the Executive Slate debate on Tuesday, was proposed by Class of 2019 representative Qudsiyyah Shariyf and passed 14–0–1.

The meeting also turned to the question of accountability for the votes taken at last week’s meeting. Though vote totals were provided for every vote taken in the divestment debate, the minutes from that debate only specified the votes of individual representatives for the final vote on the resolution. Before the meeting, members had expressed concerns that member’s votes on substantial amendments that had been proposed and failed during the debate were not being made public.

At last week’s meeting, Viola proposed that five paragraphs pertaining directly to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement be removed from the resolution. The motion to pass the edited version failed 4–10–0. Class of 2018 representative Calvin Cottrell proposed that an amendment be inserted into the resolution stating “Let it be further resolved that the College Council of the University of Chicago affirms the right of Jewish self-determination and the continued existence of Israel.” This motion failed 4–6–5. While the number of representatives in support or opposition was reported in the minutes from the meeting, the names of those representatives were not.

Cottrell suggested the minutes from the meeting on April 12 be amended to reflect the votes of each CC member. This, he argued, was important for increasing CC transparency. Since the votes had not been recorded at the time, this would require representatives to vote again on the amendments.

There was hesitation among CC members as some members expressed concern about the practicality of retroactively voting. However, Rapp argued that by not recording who voted, CC was violating its own bylaws.

Article II Section 11 of the General Assembly Bylaws states: “Any and all minutes must reflect how each Assembly member voted in any and all votes taken, and all Assembly members must be listed by name.”

Shariyf proposed a motion for all CC members to recast votes for Viola and Cottrell’s amendment proposals. If the vote count matched, this information would be added in an appendix to the minutes. If the numbers were inconsistent the minutes would be approved regardless. This motion passed 15–0–0.

In addition to proposing measures to increase transparency, CC discussed the University’s plans to upgrade transportation services with Director of Transportation and Parking Services Beth Tindel.

Tindel stated that the University aims to award a new shuttle service provider by July. The current company operating the campus transit system, First Transit, remains a viable contender. The deployment of a new fleet of shuttles is dependent on which company is chosen in the Request for Proposal (RFP), a bidding process in which the University will solicit companies to compete for its business. Tindel stated that the RFP would be posted by next week.

Changes to the current shuttle system include the introduction of new vehicles, the decision to not idle shuttles in front of the Regenstein Library, and the posting of signage at existing CTA stops for University shuttles. Also discussed was the initiation of the U-Pass program in the fall.

In response to questions regarding the job security of University shuttle drivers, Tindel explained that the drivers are not barred from working at the University because of their affiliation with the current service provider. Tindel stated that the next contracted company will be encouraged to hire back the drivers currently employed.

Clark Halpern, Class of 2016 representative and member of the Committee on Campus Sustainability, was eager to discuss sustainability with Tindel. Tindel suggested that the University is seeking a way to fund a more sustainable fleet and expressed consternation at the potential costliness.