Editorial: Controversial USAC divestment resolution reflects importance of transparency
March 29, 2021 10:26 a.m.
Transparency promotes accountability.
It’s a sentiment that’s often shared by both members of the Undergraduate Students Association Council and its critics.
Most recently, various Jewish and pro-Israel student organizations raised concerns about USAC’s transparency following the council’s approval of a resolution that called for the University of California to divest from businesses that contribute to global military operations. The text of the resolution was not made available before the council meeting.
Included in the demands was a specific call to divest from the “ethnic cleansing in Palestine by the Israeli government.” Student organizations said it was impossible for them to share their opinions before the council voted, as there was no way they could have known in advance the resolution would contain what they thought to be unfair language.
Some officials said they didn’t realize the language of the resolution was controversial until after it had been passed.
The council could have benefitted from a more diverse set of opinions since the very start. Now that the resolution has been passed, there is no way of knowing if a larger range of student voices might have changed the council’s opinion.
At least USAC responded to the controversy in stride.
USAC Internal Vice President Emily Luong proposed a bylaw amendment that would require the council to make details of resolutions public two days before future USAC meetings, and the council approved the measure at its following meeting.
Such measures to increase transparency should prevent a similar situation from happening in the future, and the board supports Luong in her effort to do so.
Still, nothing can change the fact that student officials passed the resolution while many students were left in the dark. What’s even more concerning is that USAC has shown no interest in reopening the resolution for discussion.
The passed resolution may not enact anything concrete, but its language sends a message to the administration, the student body and the world. When it comes to deeply personal, controversial issues such as this, a student government is obligated to put in a good faith effort to hear all parts of the student body before making decisions.
Moving forward, the council should not shy away from dealing with contentious topics, as open discussions can be productive and informative when done correctly. But when one argument is all but eliminated, a discussion becomes a one-sided debate and that productivity is lost.
For a student government, setting this kind of precedent is dangerous.