“Transparency” has become a buzzword in the Student Government Association in the last two years. We’ve seen a revolving door of presidents and cabinet members preach the importance of openness in legislation and honesty with the student body.
However, in the aftermath of the first presidential resignation in six decades, our student representatives have gone completely silent. For the time being, the student government’s experiment with democracy has ended. Until the SGA releases officials’ testimony and other information about the circumstances of Cochran’s resignation, the SGA can claim no legitimacy as a democratic governing body.
Members of SGA—from the senators to the executives—refuse to comment on the “ongoing investigation” into First Year Council applications, per the UA administration’s wishes. When dealt a public records request to turn over written testimony related to the investigation, SGA officials chose instead to give the documents to University Judicial Affairs. The UA administration, in turn, tucked these documents under the blanket of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and indefinitely refused to release the information.
Why have our repeated requests to view these documents and tell the real story behind Cochran’s resignation been denied by both the SGA and the administration? Imagine if the federal government refused to respond to an open records request, not unlike ours, about misconduct among the highest officials in the United States. Needless to say, the United States’ 235-year experiment with democracy would be over—just like that of our SGA.
We understand that the University has placed constraints on SGA. We understand that everyone from President Stephen Swinson to the senators have their hands tied on the issue. The administration has curtailed whistleblowers by promising to punish anyone who reveals details of the investigation as violators of the Code of Student Conduct.
Unless the investigation involves sensitive information about students that does not relate to their service as public officials, we see no good reason to keep those involved silent. The very least the University owes to its students is a timetable for when the information can be released. After that timetable runs its course, students deserve to know everything.
But the administration hasn’t offered a timetable. That leaves only one group we can rely on to save the SGA’s legitimacy—individuals within SGA.
The SGA as an organization is playing along in the administration’s game of hiding corruption. That game isn’t fair to any SGA officials who truly do, as individuals, hold transparency in the highest regard, as they have professed to in their campaigns. We feel these students should take a stand as individuals for transparency and speak out if they feel so compelled.
That could save the SGA’s legitimacy. Then, we would know that even when our top officials resign, scandal ensues and the University locks down information, at least we have an SGA made up of people willing to do the right thing.
Our View is the consensus of The Crimson White editorial board. Opinions editor Tray Smith did not participate in this editorial.