Dr. Royce Money’s announcement at Friday’s Chapel clearly demonstrated how ACU leaders are being painfully honest and accessible in this recent NCAA mess, regardless of the cost of that transparency. The university’s self-reporting was a brave and ethical move, especially in light of the consequences that vacated numerous wins from the football team, reduced track and field scholarships and limited the roster of any athletic team to five international student-athletes.
Money, president of the university, told students Friday to talk to reporters if they desired. He even said the administration had bent over backwards to be open about the NCAA situation. Although the NCAA’s penalization of the ACU track and field and football programs is embarrassing for the university, Money’s policy of honest communication at a private, Christian university is an outstanding witness to other institutions of higher learning across the country.
This praiseworthy stand contrasts sharply with the recent actions of the Students’ Association Congress, where members voted to close Wednesday’s meeting to all “outsiders” because of a perceived threat to their personal privacy. The threat? A reporter’s tape recorder.
Such a flimsy excuse to limit students’ access to important proceedings by their student leaders confirms that many members of SA Congress need to grow up before they will be ready to walk in Money’s shoes.
Ironically, Sophomore Sen. Tony Godfrey, who moved to close the meeting, said Congress was open to its meetings being recorded. The biggest worry for Congress members involved a rumor that the recorder was powerful enough to pick up private conversations more than 30 feet away from its location.
The recording, made before the meeting was closed, was posted on the Optimist Web site and actually featured no private conversations from such a distance. On several occasions, listeners may be able to hear students sitting directly in front of the recorder and a constant buzz from other areas of the room, but they must strain to catch the questions and debates of Congress members, as they discuss motions and amendments, which begs the question: why are our leaders having these private conversations in the middle of an official meeting?
But what students can and cannot hear on the recording is not the issue. The problem is how Congress limited the First Amendment rights of the students on this campus.
The recording was to be the first of many Podcasts of the SA Congress meetings found on the Optimist Web site. These audio recordings would allow students who could not attend the Wednesday night meetings to stay informed about the decisions of our student government.
Audio and television recordings of open U.S. Congress meetings are available to the public through CSPAN. In the same way, our SA Congress meetings should be available to the student body. Podcasts of Congress meetings in their entirety give students a complete recording of the proceedings and act as a supplement to the Optimist articles that only report the main points of the meetings.
When the 2006-07 SA Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act, its actions deserved a standing ovation.
The act created a system of accountability for SA Congress.
Through the act, students had access to the minutes of all public Congress meetings and any committees formed, information about student organizations, internal policy statements, Congress’ budgets and day-to-day expenditures of student organizations that received funding from student activity fees, according to the Nov. 17, 2006, issue of the Optimist.
Maher Saab, president of 2006-07 SA Congress, said the act was a way to keep Congress members accountable and let students know they had an open-door policy.
“Every student has a right to know where their fee is going, at least the SA portion of it,” Saab said in a 2006 Optimist interview.
It is still important for students to know how Congress is using their money, especially since Congress’ main influence on campus stems from the choices it makes when spending, allocating and dividing a large percentage of our student activity fees.
When SA Congress closes a meeting under Robert’s Rules of Order, students are kicked out of the meeting, the secretary does not keep minutes of the meeting and all the meeting’s proceedings are kept secret from the student body.
Wednesday’s closed-door Congress meeting was contemptible because it demonstrated a lack of respect for the student body. Members limited students’ rights with an extreme move based merely on a rumor without first trying alternate channels such as consulting the reporter or discussing the concerns about the recording.
If SA Congress’ main goal is to serve the students it represents, it needs to be transparent with its actions, think before it proceeds and, above all, keep itself accountable to its constituents. Following such suggestions, Congress can achieve an atmosphere of openness and find itself walking the same high road recently blazed by Money.