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Editorial: Student Government failing to uphold promise of transparency

Student Government (SG) has once again dropped the ball and, unfortunately, gotten away with it. At its weekly Senate meetings, minutes, transcribed recordings of the meeting, are supposedly transcribed and uploaded online for all students to see. However, those records have not been uploaded since September of 2014, leaving students in the dark over what exactly SG is doing.

Though it appeared SG officials were in violation of their oaths to maintain transparency to students, the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Ethics found them all innocent and simply recommended they upload the records soon.

SG is responsible for allocating roughly $14 million in Activity and Service fees each year. Up until now, taking time out of a busy schedule to show up to the meetings was the only way a student could know what they were doing with those funds. 

Last October, one student, Katharine Orr, became increasingly frustrated over this inadequate attempt at transparency and filed a grievance with SG. 

“There are a lot of students who can’t physically show up to the meetings, but it’s not their fault for being uninformed,” Orr said in an interview with the Oracle. “It’s SG’s fault for not being able to do what they are required by statute to do.”

When this issue was addressed in October, former Senate President Pro-Tempore Abdool Aziz told the Oracle the issue was that SG didn’t have any minutes to post. According to Aziz, the most experienced transcriber had left the university and they had yet to properly train a replacement.

How long does training take? It has been over a year since the last upload. No amount of training should take this long. 

SG Senate President Kristen Truong and SG Director of Communications and Marketing Juan Zapata claimed SG’s website is being migrated from an older site format to the format most USF websites are now using. This process, according to Zapata, is the reason the minutes are not up yet. He says they will be available once the website is finished. 

To be blunt, not displaying its minutes to the public puts the SG Senate in violation of its own statutes, as well as Florida’s open government law. Truong dismissed any accusations of wrongdoing, stating SG is in no way violating the law. She claimed any student who wishes to see the records can email her to receive a copy. 

That is absurd. What student will go through the process of tracking Truong down and requesting minutes? And what student would know to do that? The convenience of online records is popular for a reason. Even if a student wanted to take the extra time to hunt down the records, SG has never advertised the availability of such minutes — least of all, only upon email request to a specific senator.

Are we honestly supposed to believe Truong will personally respond to each and every email she receives about the minutes? This is a waste of both her and students’ time.  

Refusing to upload records and then hiding behind the excuse that if students just dig hard enough they could have received them is ridiculous. SG has had over a year to fix its corrupt system. Instead of tackling the problem, it dolled out excuse after excuse as to why it was failing to be transparent. 

Students have had enough. We elected our SG officials believing they would lead us to a prosperous and issue-free year. But instead of trustworthy leaders, we have shady representatives who refuse to keep us informed.