The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

99° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Editorial: Secrecy in student government hurts ASUA

Sunshine Week is dedicated to freedom of information and government openness; a lesson that the UA’s student government seems to be stomping its feet and shouting “”No!”” about like a terrible 2-year-old toddler.

On March 9, when the results of elections for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona were announced, Elections Commissioner Michael Colletti revealed that presidential candidates James Allen and Daniel Hernandez had each been disqualified for an unspecified number of elections code violations. What followed can only be described as complete ineptitude, in which ASUA members were warned not to share what they knew about these violations under the guise of candidates’ “”privacy rights.””

Because candidates’ campaign records were considered educational, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protected those records, ASUA said. When the Arizona Daily Wildcat tried to pursue more information in regards to the violations, Colletti claimed his hands were tied, and advised the Wildcat to file a public records request.

Of course, the whole point of FERPA is that educational records are not open to the public. That’s why the violations couldn’t be shared on March 9. So there wouldn’t actually be a point to filing a request, unless ASUA was wrong about campaign records being protected in the first place. However, it’s not like anyone has ever been surprised when ASUA is confused by simple concepts.

What is surprising is the number of hoops there were to jump through during the process of obtaining those public records. After filing three separate public records requests with ASUA, the Daily Wildcat waited. That meant you had to wait.

These were people who claimed to want to represent your interests and, all year long, have thrown around the word “”transparency”” like they believed what they were saying. Apparently, your student government representatives are “”working for you,”” and being “”transparent,”” but only when it’s convenient for them.

It has now been two weeks since both candidates were disqualified, and ASUA has only just begun to reveal why. Continuing on their spree of failure, ASUA finally filled the Wildcat‘s request for records. When informed the Wildcat would be picking them up, the reporter was told the records were there, but they wouldn’t be released to the paper for another day. Reason? None, even though other requesters had already picked theirs up.

ASUA finally released the records, but not before redacting as much as possible, though not as carefully as they probably intended to. Included in the records are copies of complaints filed against ASUA candidates and email exchanges. Names and contact information were redacted from many of the records, but inconsistently so. A name redacted on one copy of an email would appear on another copy of the same email.

Putting aside the pointlessness of going to the trouble of redacting private information but being careless about it, you should wonder why so much was redacted from the records now that they’ve finally been released. On some records, the only thing visible on the page was “”To”” and “”From”” with sender, recipient, and the entire message redacted.

In public records, like police reports, it’s normal to redact some information. In the Wildcat’s Police Beat section, editors deliberately withhold names of victims. But there is a legitimate reason to do so in those instances. ASUA’s reluctance to be candid about what should be unquestionably public knowledge demonstrates a sad lack of respect for constituents.

Every time election season rolls around, candidates blurt out words like “”transparency”” and “”accountability.”” Then elections end, and, as best demonstrated by this one, ASUA forgets those words. How long does it take to realize the people who are burned most by red tape and secrecy are not the constituents, but the people who represent them?

The air of secrecy, intentional or not, and the general incompetence of ASUA since the two presidential candidates were disqualified says more about ASUA than any tired campaign platform or parroted slogan could.   

— Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat editorial board and written by one of its members. They are Kristina Bui, Ken Contrata, Michelle A. Monroe and Heather Price-Wright. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

More to Discover
Activate Search