Our View: Here comes the sun

DKS Editors

Welcome to Sunshine Week. No, it’s not because the weather finally spiked to 60 degrees or because you’re heading to Florida at the end of this week. Sunshine Week celebrates the notion that democracy thrives when government operates in the sunshine – not in hidden, dark rooms of statehouses shielded from the public’s eye.

More specifically, the initiative led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors seeks to create a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

As journalists, we savor sunshine laws every day. They allow us to attend and report on open meetings at the university – and pursue access to unwarranted closed meetings. Plus, they give us rights to obtain documents and records necessary for uncovering misdeeds or giving the public important information.

But why should you care?

Without transparency, governments and institutions could easily run amok, possibly wasting your money. Useless government earmarks for senators’ local pet projects. Misuse of campaign spending money. Irresponsible travel expenses. We could go on and on.

The media may report on these stories with the help of sunshine laws, but as citizens, you harbor the same rights. Fearful of a university policy? Attend a Faculty Senate or Board of Trustees meeting. Want to know faculty or administrators’ salaries? File a public records request with the University Counsel. It’s your right to know.

The first Sunshine Week officially began in March 2005, after the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors launched a Sunshine Sunday in 2002 when state legislators threatened to add new exemptions to public records law.

Since then, Sunshine Week has gained steam, figuratively shedding light on why open government needs to be enforced. You can be a part of the movement. Lead a discussion about these issues, or research your rights and tell others. Chances are, many of your friends and family members may not realize their rights according to sunshine laws.

If we don’t hold government and institutions accountable for their actions, no one will. Kent State is no exception to this rule.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater’s editorial board.