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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Editorial: SAF reform should be transparent

Published: February 3, 2006
Section: Opinions

Much has been rumored about the impending Student Activities Fee (SAF) Reform Amendment however very little is known publicly. Sure, a few select students in select groups have seen the latest incarnation of the amendment, but most have not been privy to it. The process to make the SAF more transparent has been anything but that.

The amendment creation process has severely lacked opportunities for average students to give feedback and has lacked the public discussion necessary for such an enormous change (as its rumored to be). That being said, no matter what the amendment contains, we cannot support it unless the remainder of the process is open to the public and students have chance to view and suggest changes to the amendment for at least a month.

At one point, the amendment contained a Media Board, at another, all it did was change the way Student Events received its funding, in another, only the Justice remained a secure organization, even still in one The Hoot received SAF funding, and yet in another the F-board receive more money and much more power. However, not being public, students are not made aware of these changes, groups are kept in the dark, and have no opportunity to voice any concerns about the amendment.

While we appreciate all of the hard work some student leaders have put in on this, we do not appreciate being left out in the dark. We do not appreciate these leaders thinking they know better than the rest of us or thinking that regular students opinions dont matter. We use the pronoun leaders, because every time we ask, we are told a different person or a different group is responsible and are told very conflicting versions of what such an amendment contains.

There has been some good outreach with club leaders advice being solicited as to what they think the amendment should contain or what they think of certain ideas. However, it is never clear to what extent that advice is taken or what counter-proposals are given by others to these same Union officers. In other words, its one thing to pitch an idea to a Union officer;

its another to have a debate over that idea. Just asking people what they think an amendment should contain is not enough.

We understand that some ideas will never be proposed if the process is public, perhaps because of their unpopular nature. However, if these ideas are unpopular its better to discover them early in the process than later. To avoid people getting vilified for their ideas, anonymous proposals should also be heard and made public. Notwithstanding, there is no valid reason not allow students, to at least know as much as their elected representatives.

Yet, whenever the amendment is discussed by the Union Senate, the Senate goes into Executive (Secret) Session, effectively kicking out all press members and non-invited, non-Government members of our Union. For a student senate that claims to work for the students, they seem to be sending a message that they dont really care about students or their ideas. Keeping these hours-long discussions on the SAF amendment secret is not only counter to the intent of what executive session is supposed to be for (discussion of Counseling Clubs) but also reminiscent of a governing body which doesnt believe in the American model of open government.

Who would have thought, wed find this in a school so infatuated with Social Justice? Our theory is, that some of these government officials just like feeling self-important by having access to information which regular students do not. By keeping the amendment process secret, they are in essence fuelling this power trip and saying students arent important enough to contribute.

Yes, they will eventually release a public version of the amendment, but from what we hear, it wont be open for discussion but rather will be a final version. Students will be asked to sign it and then vote for it, without ever contributing to it. This is unacceptable.