USU Board moves towards greater transparency

Lisa Xia reports on the Union’s shifting attitudes towards transparency

Lisa Xia reports on the Union's shifting attitudes towards transparency

The USU last week began to implement its new transparency measures, opening a public dropbox that will be regularly updated with the minutes and resolutions of future board meetings. Motions on notice, monthly working party chairs and board director reports will also be uploaded. The dropbox is part of a wider implementation of new measures, designed to improve transparency and accountability of the board’s decision-making processes. Past minutes will not be available on the dropbox but can be found on the USU website.

The new ‘Release of Documents’ policy, drafted by board director Liam Carrigan and passed last November is the upshot of the transparency review conducted by the board in early 2014. The policy will allow students to publically access all non-confidential board documentation.

The minutes policy, drafted by board director Liv Ronan, also regulates the timeliness and content of board minutes. In order to expedite their release, draft minutes will be posted in the dropbox several weeks after each board meeting before being formally approved at the next meeting, as has previously been the case with minutes uploaded to the USU’s website. Vote composition for motions will also now be minuted, with votes against and abstentions being recorded.

Additionally, the board has now officially sanctioned tweeting about and quoting staff members during meetings, a practice which has occurred informally since last July.

“The Board shouldn’t live in an ivory tower. We’re meant to be answerable and accountable to the students who elect us and through these changes in our governing style and structure we are able to be accountable to those members because they’re allowed to track our progress”, Carrigan said.

The USU has also informally agreed to adopt a looser approach to censurable director conduct, allowing directors to speak freely about their position on board policies without the need to go through the president. In 2012 then Board Director Tom Raue was censured over his opposition of the approval of the controversial anti-abortion “LifeChoices” society. The new approach to censures only applies to the 2014-2015 board, and is not framed in policy due to the restrictive precedent it might impose on future boards.