The Arizona Desert Lamp

Nagata’s Inaugural: “We stress transparency.”

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 2 May 2009

Sunlight Foundation, US FlagAmid the chum-chumminess that is inherent in most ASUA functions, President Nagata did get in a short, but rather well-written inaugural address. While not the most substantive of speeches, it did manage to emphasis one policy goal in transparency. “We hope that we can open communication with the students,” he said. ” . . . Our office is not perched on an ivory tower.” This is excellent news, and the preeminence of “transparency” over the usual canards is promising.

That being said, the hard part is making action line up with rhetoric. After all, neither he nor his administrative vice president, former Senator Gabriella Ziccarelli, bothered to fill out the campus policy survey. Neither did eight of the ten elected Senators. To the executive team’s credit, EVP Emily Fritze not only filled out a survey, but was also the only candidate whose policy preferences didn’t fall under the “Authoritarian” aegis. Still, three out of thirteen elected members isn’t exactly sunlight bursting forth from the fourth floor of the Union. This reflects a broader trend of promising transparency in rhetoric, while ensuring secrecy in action. One only need to look at the failure of President Barack “No More Secrecy” Obama’s transparency promises to find a very modern example.

Yet there seems to be a third path, that brings out some transparency while providing publicity for ASUA, in the form of a Presidential Communications Office. The obvious precedent here is the “Communications” section of President Shelton’s UA website, where his official dispatches are released, and stored for public review. While media figures and other analysts appreciate having an official document from which policy preferences can be derived, the releases also play into Shelton’s hand: it is his official position that dominates conversation, and thus the discussion occurs on his terms. Precedent for student-presidential communications exists over at Oregon State, where ASOSU implemented a “State of the Students” address this past year.

It doesn’t have to stop with Nagata – since we are always being reminded of how many great things ASUA does, why not emphasize that in an “ASUANews” portal, a la UANews? Various “awareness raising” releases (“Get your tickets now!”) would be interspersed among actual news items. Take, for instance, the appointment process. While appointed officials have what some might consider a troubling sway over an ostensibly democratic government, the appointment process is almost entirely a closed circuit. Part of this is a matter of interest; suffice it to say that not even the Lamp is speculating on potential sustainability directors. Yet this interest must in part be driven by ASUA itself, by publicizing these appointments as they happen. Why not publish a release about each nominee, as they are chosen? By making this information available, it brings the services that ASUA often complains students are “unaware” of back into the media spotlight. Certainly, nominees will be subjected to a higher degree of scrutiny – but unless they are truly unqualified, this should hardly be an issue.

Such transparency, it should be emphasized, is somewhat ersatz, and opening up public communications is no substitute for measures like published budgets and Senate meetings. Yet unlike other transparency measures, ratcheting up the press release game is something in which both sides of the transparency battle can benefit from.

Image courtesy of the entirely awesome Sunlight Foundation.


3 Responses

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  1. […] Bruce isn’t taking any calls, which is never a good sign (although current President Nagata might be worth a […]

  2. Stephen Bieda III said, on 4 May 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Actions speak louder than well-articulated inaugural speeches. This cuts both ways, at the White House and in the Student Union’s ASUA Office.

  3. […] Nagata emphasized transparency in his inaugural, and so far he’s off to a good start, having provided this site with a list of all appointed […]

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