Friday, February 20, 2009

How will you increase the overall transparency of the SA?

In GWBlogspot's online Student Association forum, a recurring theme in students' questions involved the SA's transparency. Students worry that their concerns have been neglected by the SA, and that the trend will continue.

How will you increase the overall transparency of the SA and ensure that our voices are heard? Some readers have suggested participating in frequent public forums (like this one) and posting legislation online for student commenting before approval.

Matt writes:
In response to a lot of the criticism that student government has gotten over the past year, would you agree to participate in forums like this on a somewhat regular basis to answer questions and take in student feed back on a variety of issues?
Sam asks:
The Obama Administration has gone through great lengths to increase transparency in the federal government. Will you also make this effort?

If so, will you make a similar pledge to post bills online for student commenting 5 days before they're signed?
Andrea asks:
How are you planning to ensure that GW students voices are heard by the administration?
All SA candidates are invited to respond to the the aforementioned question and we would encourage students to engage the candidates in back-and-forth discussion on this issue between now and the election on February 25th and 26th.

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to your responses.

14 comments:

Justin Hollimon said...

Hey,
I hope everyone's semester is going well. To answer your question, transparency is one of the keys to my campaign. After talking to many students, I have come to the conclusion that the only people who actually understand what the SA does and how it operates is those involved in the SA. This is a huge problem because it prompts the question of how can a organization advocate and improve the college experience for the student body when the student body does not feel connected to the organization.
What I want to achieve as SA President is to reconnect the Students to the Student Association. I will hold biweekly meetings that are open to the entire student body so that there is an outlet for students to come out and speak to the students they elected to represent them. Secondly, I will start a video series entitled, "Inside the SA", which breaks down everything that has to do with the Student Association. This video series will remove any mystery that is associated with the SA. The last thing I will do to increase transparency is make myself available more than the past presidents. If people can trust and relate to the top executive of an organization, a level of transparency will inherently develop. I am open to suggestions as well because I understand the importance of transparency. Thanks, Justin

Louis Laverone - EVP Candidate said...

First off, I think President Obama's pledge to post legislation online is a great idea, and as EVP I would put a similar system in place for the Senate. The only wrinkle in this idea is the fact that - this year, at least - a lot of our legislation came to the Senate at the last minute, usually being added to the docket during the meetings. We would therefore need to enforce a submission deadline for each Senate meeting, or increase the number of meetings to make sure people can comment without backing up the Senate.

Last year, the SA organized a regular series of town hall meetings. These events would bring together students, administrators, and SA members to discuss major issues facing GW, and it worked well. We haven't done that this year, and it's a shame. Next year's President and EVP should reinstitute this system; it's a great forum for students to express their views.

The next President and EVP should maintain an open-door policy and get out of the office once and a while. If elected EVP, I'll hold office hours in public spots around campus, and I'll answer any and all questions sent my way. If you want, you can test this out by emailing me at louis.laverone@gmail.com.

Dan Keylin said...

The easiest and perhaps most efficient way to get more transparency next year is to pass a bill requiring each of the four SA committees to post their detailed minutes online, on the SA website.

This year, only the Finance Committee, led by Julie Bindelglass posted their minutes and allocations online. Any student can easily see what was discussed during each meeting. We need that kind of transparency from each committee next year.

If we are to have transparency in the SA, letting students know what we are doing sounds like a decent and realistic start.

Josh Goldstein said...

To first answer Matt's question, yes of course I would participate in numerous forums, town halls and other ways in which the student body can get in contact with their CCAS senators or representatives as a whole. I think if we follow the same as President Obama has set with his Google for Government Initiative, then we are on the right track.

Logan Dobson's "Open the Financial Systems" Act was a start, but it really scratches the surface of what transparency, in terms of the relationship between the SA and the student body will entail.

We need to talk to each other better, and if GWblogspot and other publications like it sponsor debates, I will be there, but I also pledge to have better publicized office hours and anyone can email me anytime with concerns at jmgold@gwmail.gwu.edu

Julie Bindelglass said...

You’ll see the phrase “together we can take back the S.A.” several times throughout my website, but it is more than simply empty rhetoric. My campaign challenges students to get involved through e-mail updates, mobile alerts, Twitter, and Facebook, and that will not end the day I am elected. Backed by a variety of web 2.0 platforms my commitment to transparency is abundantly apparent.

The Student Association Presidency is not as flashy as it seems. In fact, it is a job of meetings - meeting with administrators to serve as a megaphone for the student voice. I have pledged my commitment to maintaining an executive blog, authored by the entire executive branch, chronicling the day to day work that we do on behalf of the student body.

As Finance Chair, I simplified the financial process and instructed the Executive to place all financial documents online. As President, I will create www.gwsafunds.com to display to students where every cent of their student fee money ends up.

This past year, one of my top priorities was ensuring that that all meeting announcements, minutes, and agendas were all online in a timely matter. How can student leaders expect that the student body voice their concerns if we don’t know what our student government is working on? As president, every piece of relevant paper will be available to students.

More information on this and other solutions can be found on my website, www.takebackthesa.com

Logan said...

First off, I'd like to ask Julie to stop filling her responses with hyperlinks. It makes the rest of us look lazy.

This year as a CCAS senator, I have made great strides in transparency in the SA. In addition to my Financial Transparency bill (which Josh ever so kindly noted), I have maintained a blog throughout the entire year of all my doings in the SA, as well as keeping the public informed about what was going on in the SA.

I hope that, if re-elected, I can continue the work I started this year on transparency issues.

Brendan Curran - School of Business Undergrad. said...

To answer the question, I will demand student town hall events to discuss current issues within the SA. I also will see that Julie's work on implementing the on-line student fund information continues, as that is the best way for students to see how their money is being spent. On-line committee reports are also key in SA transparency so that students can see what kind of legislation is coming out of the SA.

Most recently, Logan Dobson worked on his Financial Transparency Bill. It will be these types of legislation that exercise immediate SA transparency. It will also be these types of initiatives that I will take on in order to increase SA transparency.

Dan Keylin - CCAS Candidate said...

I think we need to be careful with proposing town hall meetings. They tend to be sparsely attended.
If we do have them, I'd suggest there only be one a semester at the maximum, making sure to advertise it well, and having President Knapp there to join in on the discussion.

Louis Laverone - EVP Candidate said...

That's a fair point about the town halls, Dan. Alternatively, if you hold town halls or some other sort of open meeting more frequently - say, every third Wednesday of the month or something - and they're advertised so everyone understands these meetings always happen, you might get consistently good attendance. Topics matter, too. We're not about to have an entire meeting on paper towel policy, for instance.

George J. Brunner said...

By promoting each meeting, establishing venues for public opinion & input, ensure everything that is written within the SA is made public. Establish an open relationship with the various media on campus & utilize marketing strategies to reach the student base. Also work closer to RHA.

Monica Sanchez - ESIA Senator Candidate said...

I admire a lot of the ideas that have been stated previously and I would support the town hall style outreach to students.

Apathy within a large amount of the student body is an important issue to be aware of, however through a strong SA cabinet and the dedication of student leaders, the SA can be an entity on campus that is trusted, respected and transparent.

I also agree with the candidates stating that an efficient way of achieving transparency is through the availability of documents, budgets, and agendas in an on-line web page or forum.

Sammy Lopez - Presidential Candidate said...

The easiest and most cost-effective way to make the SA more transparent is to make much more information available on the internet. Right now the SA website is outdated in many sections, and although it’s great that agendas and minutes are posted, I think it would be wonderful if there was information readily available about what the SA has been spending its money on. The SA should also publish online how much money it’s giving each student organization to ensure fairness and transparency in that area as well. Students are hesitant to trust the SA with their money because it’s hard for us to see where that money goes, so I look forward to changing that. I have experience in web design and I know what it would take to make the SA website more interactive and informative. As SA President I would seek to form a committee to revitalize the SA website and look into making more information available there as well as through other means like Facebook or Twitter.

Chris Clark - Senate Candidate said...

Hey everyone, hope your semesters are going well. I think a big problem with the Bush administration was a lack of transparency. Next year, I plan to keep my facebook group open and participate in blogs, such as this, to keep the student population up-to-date and informed. I am always open to suggestions, and I would welcome them now, even before the election. Keeping the student population involved helps us move more towards a direct democracy, which allows the most say from the most amount of people. If everyone has a problem, do not hesitate to speak up and express your opinions on passing bills or bills that should be formed.

Melissa Gindin for CCAS-U said...

This is an excellent question. One of the most essential components of my candidacy involves diversity outreach. Which is not an issue I have heard a single other candidate address, executive, senatorial, or otherwise.
I think town hall meetings are a solid plan. Furthermore I contend that they are generally under attended because the SA allows it to be as such. Firstly, by establishing and sustaining an environment wherein the SA appears embedded in power struggles and petty arguments it appears at once unwelcoming and undesirable.
Moreover, events of any nature, are generally a failure because those involved allow them to be.
If the SA makes a sincere effort to involve those generally neglected from the process they will succeed in having not only the benefits of a more diverse SA, but will also display a sense of inclusiveness and class rarely portrayed.