Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Fixing Student Democracy

I wrote earlier about how ATN! slipped through the cracks of student government last year to get on the ballot without proving their organizational capabilities. Since then I have been thinking up ways to avoid the problem in the future and believe I have a workable solution.

The current idea popular with people I have spoken to is requiring ATN! to undergo a yearly audit. That is all well and good, but ultimately doesn't serve the purpose of instilling trust into the organization. The average student is not equipped with the time or the expertice to understand what the audit is saying. The audit, as a stand alone solution, does nothing but add expense (paid by student dollars) and frustration.

It has been suggested that the University will tell us if the audit comes back negative. Okay, sure, we could ask the University to solve all of our problems for us. Or instead, we could take some personal responsibility and do it ourselves. I propose setting up a joint ASUW/GPSS Commission that would review the books and transparency policies of any group receiving direct student funding (currently only ATN! and WashPIRG). The Commission would issue a recommendation each quarter to be put on the website where students decide if they want to donate money. The Commission would either certify them as trustworthy or not certify them. If you wanted to know why, there would be a link. They would also provide a more detailed report prior to the student vote to keep them on the list to ask for money. But ultimately the individual student would make the determination to donate or not, but they would have access to information provided by other students. Web of trust sort of stuff.

Now I need to figure out how to sell the student governments on the idea.

1 comment:

srcastic said...

It seems like a workable solution, if you can find students that would know what to look for in an audit, and if you could avoid conflicts of interest. The problem with the former is that the ASUW and GPSS often appoint unqualified people that are friends or share similar ideological views as those in power (think about some recent Student Regent candidates). This is often at the expense of the expertise sought.

As to the latter, there are often times when those active in the ASUW are also active in the groups that would be audited. The ASUW also works very closely with ATN in its lobbying efforts. Thus conflicts of interest could result in apointees to the audit committee seeking to protect their friends (or themselves) by fudging the numbers, or performing a less than complete inquiry.