Lack of transparency and information flow between the administration and the students remain the main concerns of most AUBGers, after the administration decided on the new meal plan. Facebook groups have been created to organize a protest against the new regulation.
Everything seems to flow in the “right” direction – the student body opposes the administration! Student Government (SG) supports the protest. However, it appears that administration is not the only one to be blamed in this case. The inactivity of SG is one of the main reasons why things developed as they have.
The Board of Trustees’ (BoT) decision on the 40 percent increase of the student activities fee on the Washington Board Meeting, January 27-29, was the first clear example of miscommunication. In analyzing the case, it will be helpful to track the fault in administration – student body communication and why the SG failed to fulfill one of its main duties.
Below is a quick overview of the scheme, showing how information is supposed to flow and what role SG plays in the issue.
On the left you can see how the information is supposed to flow from the administrative committees to the students.
“We are the linking board between the students and the administration and the faculty,” said SG member Ivan Stanchev.
“There is a process when Student Representative (SR) goes to the meeting of assigned committee. Then, he sends the report to the student representative selection committee (SRSC) and after that SRSC informs the rest of SG about the reports. Only after that SG informs the student body at the meetings,” said Diana Li, the Vice Chair of SG who is also a head of the SRSC committee.
On the left you can see the Student Representatives’ obligations and who is responsible for evaluating their job.
According to the SRSC guidelines every Student Representative is obliged to send a report after each Committee meeting to the Vice President of the SG and the Chair of the SRSC. The report should include the official committee minutes and the Student Representative’s comments.
The SRSC Committee members are obliged to assist the Vice President of the SG in evaluating the work of the SR. They should propose Senate to recall the SR if he/she fails to fulfill his/her duties.
Below are listed a number of reasons that caused and are still causing miscommunication between the students and administration.
1) Student Representatives do not send reports to SG – “A lot of people [SR] did not send these reports until now, SG have never paid attention to it really… We were reminding people [SRs], sending them e-mails, but there were no results usually,” said SG Vice President Tim Koroteev. Diana Li also confirmed that some representatives failed to send reports on time and this was the main reason for the change in the SR by-law. SRs will have 72 hours deadline instead of 24, as it was required before.
None of the two students attending the Students Financial Affairs Committee Meeting, December 9, sent the report to SG. On this meeting the final changes to the increased Student Activities Fees were made.
“As a member of Student Government and I meet these people every week, I think, I can afford once to just inform them,” said Stanchev. Student representative, Pavlin Hristov, said that he thought there was no need to send the report as long as Stanchev provided information to SG.
Sending reports is important part of the administration – students’ communication. Any student has the right to request any report, except the ones that contain personal informations such as Conduct Council Committee. Hence, if neither Stanchev, nor Hristov sent the information to the SG, the students were deprived of their rights to know what happened on the December 9 meeting.
2) The way SG evaluates the SRs work – According to Koroteev, “The only way to check the work of the Student Representatives is to see their reports that they send after the meetings.” However, he said, SRs usually fail to send those. Hence, SG did not have evidence to evaluate SR’s work.
3) So far, SG did not dismiss any SR for not fulfilling their duties - “Some representatives failed to send us reports, but the cases were after introductory meetings, where nothing is discussed. Members of the committee just get to know each other. That is why we don’t think we should recall Student Representatives for that,” said Koroteev, who is also supposed to evaluate the work of SRs.
“SG cannot hold responsible if some student representatives does wrong,” said Stanchev. However, according to the SR by-law, SG should control the work of SRs.
“I am sure right after the SFAC meeting I informed SG about what was discussed and nobody said anything. We all believe that all the benefits of the new Student Center will offset the increase. So, we thought that everything was fine,” said Stanchev.
On the Facebook group “I don’t want to pay $350 for Student Activities Fee” SG Treasurer Venelina Miteva wrote. “The audience on the meeting commented and gave their opinion [about the new fees], it was sent to all students via the minutes and it was before the BoT meeting in Washington.”
As a response, students complained that SG should consider the precedent and should initiate new ways of communication with the students.
On the question, “Why do you think students do not go to SG meetings?” Stanchev replied:
“The majority of people just don’t care [about the issues discussed on SG meetings]. The only time they care is when they have to pay more. Should we feel responsible when we did not inform them, in case they didn’t come?”