A Proposal to Address GUSA’s Lack of Transparency

Prior to posting this piece we had it looked at by a few GUSA insiders who tell us plans are in the works to update the GUSA website by the middle of October.  We're told that bios, press statements, and an agenda will be up by then.  In addition to these fixes, we think they should consider incorporating our five-point proposal.  -The Editors

Take a look at the GUSA website and ask what’s missing.

The answer: a lot.

For starters, any governing document besides the GUSA Constitution and Senate By-laws.  There are no links to pending or recently passed legislation, no record of who voted in favor or against one resolution or another, nor even a tally of the votes.  Not even an agenda statement by the current administration or any other type of action plan.  New students viewing it for the first time may legitimately wonder what the hell GUSA types actually do besides calling themselves student "leaders" and occupying a lot of positions.

The press page is also empty.  One might think that with the school year already started, there would be a statement or two from the Luther-Rohan administration welcoming students back to campus and discussing their plans for the remainder of their term.  More than half of their time in office has gone by and it looks like they haven’t done anything besides make a ton of appointments and agree to a toothless memorandum of understanding with the administration regarding sexual assault policies. 

Now we know they ran as a joke ticket, but come on guys, after you won the election you promised to seriously work on improving GUSA and strengthening communication.  And once you decided to take office, you took an oath and assumed a responsibility to make good on your promises.   Did you do anything this past summer besides writing unfunny Hoya columns?

Speaking of Joe and Connor, until this month there weren't any bios for either them on the site.  Joe has one up in which he asks people to refrain from criticizing him because he's a GUSA outsider and new at student politics, while Connor has nothing posted but his name.  No bios exist either for their massive executive staff and cabinet offices.  But it's not the lack of bios that bothers us, it's the lack of descriptions for what any of these people are supposed to do aside from possess a fancy title.

If you’re a Hoya interested in attending a GUSA meeting, good luck finding on the website a date, time or location.  Isn’t that something GUSA should advertise so Hoyas may attend and learn a bit about their student government?  And why not office hours?  President Jack DeGioia has them.  So do faculty members.  Can't you be bothered to hold them too?

Have we said enough?  There’s more to critique, but we won’t. 

Instead, we offer solutions. 

Implementing them will strengthen the communication between students and GUSA, which is a perennial talking point and campaign promise by would-be student representatives.  We think they’re pretty obvious and easily implementable reforms and are surprised neither Luther-Rohan nor previous administrations have thought of them.

Here’s our five-point proposal:

First, post two weeks in advance all pending legislation along with the date, time, and location where the vote will be held.  Reserve time in the meeting agenda so that any student who wishes to speak about the proposed legislation may do so. 

Second, once legislation has been voted upon, post the vote tally along with who voted yea or nay within 24-hours.  This will help students hold their representatives accountable.

Third, post the details of last year’s GUSA student budget and a draft of next year’s as soon as it’s complete.  Ensure there is at least two weeks notice in advance of the vote.  The studentry deserves to know where their taxes (student activities fee) are going and the real representatives of the students (i.e. club leaders) deserve a chance to influence how that money is spent.  

Fourth, update the bios and post emails addresses for the GUSA Executive and all GUSA leaders.  It doesn’t have to be a personal address.  Just make an official GUSA email for each staff member and representative, then pass it along each year to replacements.  If the President of the United States can have a letter sent to his official address, then so can student leaders.

Fifth, require each cabinet member to produce and post on the GUSA website a one-page (or longer) memo with a description of their job responsibilities along with a set of deliverables they intend to work towards during their tenure.  There are many cabinet offices with non-descript titles, some of which are brand new, and for which no information has been released regarding the office’s mandate or responsibilities, (no contact info for these cabinet officer either).  Requiring this memo will inform students of what each office is responsible for, what the occupant hopes to achieve during each GUSA administration, and how they may be contacted.  If they won’t do it, then fire them.  This will help the studentry hold student leaders accountable and ensure each office doesn’t exist to solely reward campaign supporters or build the resumes of interested students. We’ll be keeping track of who does and who does not produce these memos and will update our website as needed. 

Of the three proposals we’re releasing this week, the above should be the least controversial.  All it does is ask GUSA to improve their outreach efforts and be transparent with those they claim to serve.  For this reason, rather than suggest various student groups get involved, we’re only going to suggest one: GUSA members.  Whether they’re in the Executive, Cabinet, or Senate, the above five reforms are something GUSA reps should want to do without having to be prodded. 

Nota bene: In December we’ll be releasing our candidate questionnaire for anyone interested in running for the GUSA Executive next year.  Count on us to ask, among other things, about their plans for improving the website, strengthening transparency regarding cabinet offices, and increasing student choice regarding the student activities fee.  We’ll be endorsing a ticket and commenting on all the candidates and their platforms.