Where’s the transparency?


That’s a lot of your money for Undergraduate Student Senate to spend without a vote.

Like everything USS puts on, tomorrow’s Third Eye Blind concert is paid for by the Student Activity Fee, which is included in Kent State’s tuition.

Though exact numbers won’t be known until after the concert, USS executive director Katie Hale estimated the total cost of the show to be about $67,000.

So what’s the problem?

Let’s get a little background first. In June, USS voted to approve $50,000 to bring a certain speaker to campus. But for various reasons, that speaker — who wasn’t identified by the senate — had to cancel.

When USS found that it would have to replace the speaker, they decided to rework their budget to put on a concert.

So how does that work?

In a guest column last Tuesday, Hale, describing USS, wrote:

” … imagine a nearly empty room with a long wooden table where nine people sit and vote on how your student activity fee money is being spent.”

But there’s a small problem with that. That’s not exactly what happens, at least it’s not what happened when they decided to bring in Third Eye Blind.

USS didn’t vote to change the budget. They didn’t vote to bring the band here. And it seems they didn’t have to.

Once there’s been an initial vote for USS’ operating budget, the group is free to change the arrangements at will, without a vote and also without public discussion.

Where’s the transparency in that?

Government bodies have a responsibility to the people they represent to tell them what they’re doing. No, USS didn’t break any of their rules in what they did. But they’re spending an awful lot of money. And that’s our money. That’s your money. And in reality, it’s being spent without a vote.

Now, we’re happy to have a band like Third Eye Blind come to Kent State. They’re a good group with a fairly widespread appeal. A lot of us grew up listening to bands like Third Eye Blind. Some members of the Editorial Board are likely attending the concert. But we just can’t wrap our heads around how USS can spend that much money on a whim.

We also wonder how Third Eye Blind compares to the speaker they originally voted to bring in. John Wetmore, senator for governmental affairs, said the originally planned speaker was a “five-star” person. Of course the senate isn’t to blame for the speaker being unable to come. But if he or she was really that great and that important, and no vote was taken to change the type of presentation, why didn’t they bring in a similar speaker?

And we’re a little frustrated with the group that it took so long for them to produce a copy of the contract after we inquired about it. It doesn’t help the transparency issue when it’s so difficult to get a copy of a public document.

To be fair to Hale and not misrepresent the intent of her column, the fact that most meetings take place in an empty Governance Chambers doesn’t help. So if all this makes you upset — and even if it doesn’t — go to the meetings. Ask questions. We elect these people and it’s their job to represent us. Make them accountable for that.

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