Student government passes transparency bill

Student senators met to discuss a transparency bill on Thursday in Foster. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Caroline Yablon | Reporter

Baylor student government passed a transparency bill titled, “I Can See Clearly Now The Bureaucracy is Gone,”

The authors of the bill, Sen. Jackson McNeece and Sen. Alex Lawrence presented it at the student government meeting at Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation Thursday evening.

After a long debate between senators, the bill ended up passing with a 21 to 15 vote, with one abstention.

The transparency bill consists of the student government publicly documenting all Senate “vote by roll call” –– where each senator votes yes or no, as well as an optional 500-word explanation that a Senate member can write explaining their vote. This bill is intended to give the Senate an opportunity to be transparent with the student body on their interests.

The student government is only in charge of sending the “vote by roll call” votes to the webmaster, who is in charge of the student government website.

Last year, student government tried to pass a similar bill on transparency. There was much deliberation discussed at the meeting over passing the bill.

The weekly student government meetings are open to the anyone who wants to watch and hear the Senate discuss issues and vote on bills.

However, Chesterfield, Mont., freshman Sen. Alex Lawrence, one of the authors of the bill, believes the student body should not have to come to senate first to seek information.

“It really is not our job to wait for students to come to us, to see what we are doing — it really is our job as representatives. That’s what representing them means, that’s why we’re here. So I think giving them an avenue to do that is important,” Lawrence said.

San Antonio senior Sen. Paige Hardy believes students should not have to sit through a two hour meeting to know what is going on, but they should have access to check and see if the Senate is representing their desired interests.

“Students should be able to check and see if the people who supposedly represent their interests actually are. Although all of our meetings are open to students, it’s ridiculous to expect them to sit through a two-hour meeting just to see how someone votes,” Hardy said.

Hardy also feels the bill will hold the Senate accountable for their votes and said that if a Senate member feels apprehensive with their vote being made public then they shouldn’t be a senator.

“Senators who are afraid of their true colors showing quite honestly shouldn’t be senators. We should own our votes with pride,” Hardy said.

Public relations Senate chair Thousand Oaks, Calif., senior Sen. Blake Bryan has a different opinion. Bryan said he is 100 percent for transparency and believes the bill will give some transparency to the student body. However, he does believe that there is a significant loophole in the bill by giving the webmaster the control to post the Senate’s voting records because they are not a part of the senate bylaws.

“The issue I have with this bill is that if we are going to make bylaws change to make sure we have transparency, they were not compelling anyone to post it. If the webmaster does not want to post [our votes] then he doesn’t have to,” Bryan said.

He gave an example of a scenario to illustrate how the webmaster could potentially affect transparency from the Senate to the student body.

“Let’s say the webmaster is a friend to someone who is in Senate and doesn’t want their vote posted. They could go to webmaster and say ‘Hey, can you not post my vote,’ and he wouldn’t be breaking any rules if he said ‘Hey, sure I won’t’” Bryan said.

Many senators proposed an alternative idea to bring transparency to people by live-streaming all student government meetings, which would give students access to the debates and how the Senate votes on bills. This would help eliminate people taking senators’ words out of context.

Jones, Okla. junior Sen. Jackson McNeece explained to the Senate that being “pegged” or called out for their votes by others is a result of transparency and should not be a fear if they are a supporter of the Baylor student body.

“Regardless of the platform, whether we have [this bill], a live-stream or the entire student body comes and watches us debate, what we say — the people who want to peg us, are going to peg us regardless of what we want to say,” McNeece said. “So if you’re scared of being pegged, don’t vote for this bill, but don’t vote for any transparency bill, don’t hearten the college of transparency, but say I don’t want to get pegged because getting pegged is a byproduct of transparency.”