Lack of transparency a disservice and threat to public education

If you want to find out anything about the important decisions affecting this institution, you must navigate a bureaucratic system that is not only unfriendly, but actively hostile to those seeking to shine some light on how a supposedly “public” institution runs.

From the decision to change the business structure of the Bookstore, to the search for a new president of SF State, administrators on this campus and beyond have absolutely failed to uphold the spirit of public involvement and transparency.

Now, Chancellor Reed has placed a hold on a grant for graduate students without any prior warning or discussion with those whom it affects the most. It is beyond infuriating that Reed thinks he can get away with this kind of behavior without any blowback from students and faculty. It is decisions like this that exemplify the complete disregard for transparency that has become standard operating procedure for the CSU.

In SF State’s mission statement, the final point is that the University will be committed to “serving the communities with which its students and faculty are engaged.” Yet, by failing to maintain even basic good-faith standards of transparency, the University is failing to serve the community of students who call this campus a second home.

Transparency in public institutions is vital because it breeds accountability. Transparency allows students to engage with, question and challenge administrators to make decisions that hold true to the mission of SF State. Transparency should be protected by public institutions and not discarded.

In almost every decision that should have involved student input, they have been shut out. Even higher up decisions, that we as students should be informed about, are typically obscured by unreturned phone calls, websites that are seldom updated and administrators that seem to be unwilling to give a straight answer. And often, as is the case with the recent grant holds, students have no chance to be part of the decision making process because they don’t even know it’s happening.

If SF State and the CSU system as a larger institution wish to dodge accusations that they are actively attempting to privatize the college experience, they need to radically change the way they engage with the students and faculty they govern.

The only thing more problematic than hiding facts that should be transparent is the process of making facts deliberately obscured. It is one thing to flat out deny students access to public records and shut them out of public involvement. However, it is far more insulting to put in place a system that by design requires students to jump through hoops to find basic information that affects their scholarly lives. It is nothing more than an insult to our intelligence.

Administrators, it is time to change your tone. You cannot continue to privatize this institution without us having something to say about it.