When the Redlands Bulldog finally secured a charter through ASUR on Nov. 15, 2017, ensuring the newspaper’s funding and free speech, questions began to develop through our interactions with the different branches of student government. After a long delay for our charter to be placed on the ASUR Senate’s agenda and the need for a specific request to attend the meeting in which it was to be reviewed, we were surprised by the opacity of the student government’s transactions.
This initiated a desire to evaluate the effectiveness and transparency of ASUR. Redlands Bulldog reporters Willow Higgins, Briana Weekes and Jonathan Ruhlman began interviewing members of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, paying particular attention to their duties outlined in the ASUR constitution, to enhance understanding of the process by which the student government operates. The three articles produced are the result of our collective pursuit of accountability within our shared student government.
Our investigation did not expect to find any discrepancies within ASUR, in fact, during the duration of our interviews, we were met with a plethora of dedicated and impassioned students and faculty who sought the best for the University of Redlands student body.
What the Redlands Bulldog did discover are a series of rectifiable shortcomings: a lack of easily accessible information on all student government members, a delayed process of election resulting in unequal representation, a lack of voting records for Senators, and conflicting accounts of each member’s required office hours and no distributed proof that they were all
The fact that ASUR holds closed senate, cabinet, and judicial meetings without explicit permission is what initially alarmed the Redlands Bulldog to the lack of transparency between ASUR and the student body. ASUR is a group of students elected by the student body to represent their voice. But how can they truly be representative of, or “for the students” if decisions are being made behind closed doors? Therefore, the Redlands Bulldog implores ASUR to make all meetings open to the public, unless covered under the Brown Act. It should also be recommended that all of these legislative bodies follow the California Brown Act if they wish to upkeep professional standards.
Although we have dedicated this series to highlighting issues within ASUR, we believe that each of the aforementioned issues are fixable.
In fact, change has already begun–evident by the recent restructuring of senate, from 17 members determined by housing, to 8, two senators per class and an updated ASUR poster in the Armacost Library.
With the investigation and published series the Redlands Bulldog sought to the maximize transparency of ASUR operations and educate the public with a bit of sunlight. “We believe that information is power, or, to put it more finely, disproportionate access to information is power,” states the Sunlight Foundation. As information is power then government information should be public to all, despite the fact that information may be “generally unpopular” to the student body.
It is often highlighted in journalism that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants” and so it is the responsibility of the Redlands Bulldog to shed the sunlight wherever that might be. We hope to work together to strengthen the relationships between student body, press and government to create a symbiotic ecosystem at the University of Redlands.
Photo contributed by Redlands Bulldog photographer Kristyn Paez.