A quick scan of the Boston University Undergraduate Student Government Senate website reveals detailed amendment proposals are not published and college senators’ voting records are not disclosed. These details are ostensibly trivial, until we examine their implications for both the student body and transparency.
USG voted down an amendment Monday that would have required the body to publish all minutes, resolutions and voting records online less than 36 hours after each meeting.
There is no real world precedent for the student government’s behavior. If the U.S. Senate — USG’s high-stakes equivalent — produces “substantially verbatim accounts” of its meetings, according to their website, there isn’t an adequate reason for this government not to do the same.
Congress is admittedly a flawed institution, but its past successes indicate this method of meticulously publicizing proceedings has merit.
A potential drawback, as cited by some members in USG, is the additional work the amendment would impose on the communications department — this is unwarranted. Meeting minutes are already published online. Providing the actual amendment proposals and college senators’ records would make this process only marginally more difficult.
In the most recent Senate meeting, Director for Communications Lia Valdez spoke overwhelmingly in favor of the very motion that would fill these information gaps. Given that she would ultimately be responsible for this work, her vote underscores the motion’s importance.
The motion itself represents a broader concern about student government’s cognizance. Do the senators truly recognize that they represent something larger than themselves — that being a student body of nearly 20,000 undergraduates? That magnitude then significantly raises the stakes of their decision making, regardless of how inconsequential a single motion may seem.
Ultimately, their decisions affect each and every BU student, so there isn’t really a choice to be discussed. The students deserve to know what takes place in that meeting rather than some official, abridged version, even if the meeting’s content is mundane.
And for the majority of students who are not directly involved, the student government is simply an idyllic concept that exists for its own sake. Not going forward with this motion only widens the existing disconnect between the student body and the student government.
This was USG’S opportunity to fortify the weakening notion that the student government’s decisions has wide-reaching implications — and the senators let it slip away.
Another senator argued that this motion would result in superfluous amounts of information. Yet, where does one draw the line for “too much” information versus a “necessary” amount of information? That is entirely arbitrary.
It is already difficult to draw out each senator’s opinions from the monolithic and opaque pass-fail status of proposals supported by a generic count of yay’s and nay’s. The student body’s understanding of a motion does not need to be made any murkier.
Again, the senators are representative of something much larger than themselves. It is not their prerogative to decide how much information we get to know.
Without the full context of each meeting, students cannot understand the thought processes that resulted in the very outcomes outlined in the minutes, which then become useless for anyone outside of the room.
More importantly, this obscurity violates the very premise on which we elected our senators and their ideas. The failure of this motion suggest that transparency is little more than a platitude to USG.