SFSS directors need to be prepared to answer for how they vote

We were promised transparency, what we got was more secrecy

Photo by Andres Chavarriaga/The Peak

By: Nicole Magas, Opinions Editor

New SFSS president Giovanni HoSang said it best when he called the April 18 outgoing board’s decision to stop publishing voting decisions a “slap in the face.” The decision makes it such that SFSS board members no longer have the decisions of individual board members made public — a move that dramatically limits the power of the undergraduate student body to hold their student society accountable. The sudden reversal of this policy is an insult to everyone who voted for the outgoing board believing their promises of clarity, openness, and transparency.

Former vice-president university relations, Jackson Freedman, explained that, “We [the board of directors] deal with a lot of controversial issues [ . . . ] Individuals shouldn’t have to be held personally accountable for their decisions; the board of directors should be held accountable for their decisions.” He further states that the SFSS is not a political body, and shouldn’t be subject to political expectations of transparency. “We talk about student politics,” he said. “We see ourselves as student politicians, but that’s really not what this is. We’re a not-for-profit organization, and this is just not standard practice with any not-for-profit organization that I’ve really ever seen.”

There are several problems with this reasoning. First off, no one is forcing unprepared students to run for or assume a role on the Board of Directors. These are elected, paid positions. Students campaign for board positions on clearly defined platforms that the undergraduate student body then votes on. Theoretically, no one is going into this blind. Besides, when has “I’m new to this job” ever been a good reason to avoid taking responsibility for a mistake? You own it, you learn from it, you adjust, and move on.

Similarly, in regard to the pressures of the role, let me suggest that the SFSS Board of Directors should not be an entry-level position. Ideally, elected board members should have some experience as an executive in a lower-stakes organization such as a departmental student union. In fact, several 2018–19 members cited previous volunteer experience as proof that they were ready for the responsibility of being on the board. There is no excuse, then, for backtracking on transparency because the Board doesn’t want a paper trail to follow its “inexperienced” members.

As far as not technically being a student government goes, be that as it may, the fact remains that the SFSS and its Board of Directors is ultimately accountable to its member base — in this case, the entirety of the undergraduate student body. We have a right to know how our board’s members are voting and whether or not they are actually representing us. This is the only way to ensure an informed voter base for future elections.

Many of the 2018–19 directors campaigned on platforms of transparency and greater trust with the student unions who collectively represent the larger student body. This 180-degree reversal on a policy designed to make board decisions open and transparent to the students is a worrying dismissal of sort the values students voted for.

As undergraduates yes, we are students; yes we may not have years of experience making far-reaching decisions, but we are the future of politics — both as politicians and as voters. We should demand better of our organizations now, and build a culture of trust and transparency to carry forward into tomorrow.