How URSU is killing transparency
Something has been troubling me lately, dear readers. And no, it’s not this abnormal growth on my neck.
In a move that I think has been long overdue, we resurrected former editor-in-chief John Cameron’s column “Minuteman.” The concept was simple: report the goings-on of the University of Regina Students’ Union board meetings. The column was written to provide greater visibility of URSU to the student body at large, but also to help alleviate an abysmal track record in posting minutes, which URSU is constitutionally mandated to do.
Mr. Cameron was also allowed a recorder in every meeting. This was not some Nixonian bug that he drilled directly into the drywall to record clandestine meetings and secret schemes. It was a cheap, handheld Sony recorder that we still have in the office. This is what has been troubling me. In the past two years, the dynamic seems to have changed. Although we are allowed to be in the boardroom as tuition-paying students, we have been disallowed from recording.
The banishment of recording, according to URSU officials, was done in the interest of public squeamishness. That is, some of the board feels that meetings would be unable to proceed in an unhindered fashion if executives knew that a hot microphone was present. I might like to take this opportunity to suggest that if one is not comfortable conducting business while being recorded, a job in the public sector is probably not for them.
I might also like to suggest just how sizable the gap in logic is here. URSU demands a certain level of professionalism and journalistic integrity from us when it comes to them, which, for the past few years, we’ve been more than happy to oblige. We report in a fair and judicious manner. We carefully select each story that we wish to pursue, and we do not actively go on crusades to smear or demean the Students’ Union. And yet, they demand more accuracy out of us. Accuracy which must be obtained by hand-written notes, made sloppy for the sake of speed. And we still manage to entirely miss motions while catching up on notes, including one at the Nov. 19 board meeting, which would have allowed us to record. That motion, as it happens, was soundly defeated.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Simply put, URSU doesn’t want you, the students that elected them, to know what is said verbatim. Perhaps it’s plausible deniability; if they can’t see the notes we’ve taken, and we happen to misquote someone, they can go on the attack against our credibility. Maybe they just don’t want some foul joke to be taken too far and used against someone later. We could speculate wildly all damn day about the hypocrisy that occurs in that office. Instead, I’m offering a different solution.
If URSU wants to operate like the University of Regina’s Board of Governors, cloaks, daggers, and all, let them. You officially have my blessing to keep us from doing our jobs effectively. But, if we aren’t allowed to do our due diligence, we still need a way to hold our elected officials to account.
The final URSU board meeting is occurring on Dec. 3 at 5:30 p.m. This is also the night of URSU’s staff Christmas party. If you, having read this, and all of our coverage on this issue thus far, feel that some injustice is being done to you, then by all means, we encourage you to join us there. That’s the URSU office, second floor of the Riddell Centre. I understand that this is a big commitment to ask in the crunch of finals, but if URSU wants to encourage students to show up at meetings, I say we show up in force. It’s actually a little odd that the students’ union would only encourage students to attend these meetings at the busiest time of the academic year.
I would like to leave you with one final thought: we are not here for them. They are here for us. If every one of us opted not to come back to school next semester, URSU would not govern a ghost campus. They would be thrown out into the cold. By effectively deafening the Carillon, they are alienating the best friend they could possibly have on campus. URSU has struck a mortal blow to transparency. Are you going to be a part of the ER team that helps us to patch it up? Or are you going to be a bystander as transparency bleeds accountability all over the sidewalk while its assailant points and laughs not far away?
I leave the decision up to you.