Ohio State USG in violation of transparency bylaws
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 23:03
The Undergraduate Student Government is in violation of its bylaws concerning the public and accurate display of certain legislation, reports, agendas and minutes on its website.
Article V of the USG bylaws describes record keeping policies, outlining 15 separate provisions that must be displayed on the USG website for public access. Currently missing, not filed correctly, or not updated on the website are Senate agendas and minutes, voting and attendance records, constituency reports, executive reports and executive cabinet meeting minutes.
“Our bylaws are flawed,” said USG President Taylor Stepp, a third-year in public affairs. “The very first thing on my legislative agenda is going to be reforming the transparency and accountability measures that we have.”
Referring to the missing documents not featured on the website, Stepp said he has direct control of the executive reports and that all legislation falls under the jurisdiction of the Speaker of the Senate. But he said changes need to be made to improve USG’s accountability.
“We need to have someone whose job is designated to put these things online, because frankly it fell through the cracks,” Stepp said. “There were supposed to be people managing the website, but those things just didn’t get done.”
Stepp said he takes responsibility for all of the executive reports not being displayed online, but added that the USG bylaws concerning these reports are often too vague.
“I could technically write a fun fact of the week, call it an executive report, put my name on it, post it online, and it gives students no idea what I’m actually doing,” Stepp said. “The first thing we want to do is clarify exactly what an executive report is and when they have to be put online.”
Jonathan Elder, a third-year in economics and finance and current Speaker of the Senate, said in an email that the outdated records on the website were a “clerical error on the Senate side” and “as Speaker, I fully accept responsibility for this.”
However he said that all Senate records are up to date, they just have not been posted online.
The most updated Senate agendas and minutes displayed on the USG website are from Winter Quarter 2011, and there are currently no constituency reports online, despite each senator having to submit five per year.
Additionally, not all posted Senate bills and resolutions have accurate voting and attendance records, and there are only 10 online weekly executive reports when Stepp said “roughly 30” have taken place.
“I think it would be ideal to have all of the executive reports online, but we try to only put up the substantive ones,” Stepp said.
Daniel Brown, a third-year in computer science and engineering, said he first noticed the USG online record keeping violations when his leadership class professor gave out an assignment encouraging students to promote meaningful, positive change within their community.
“I noticed that a lot of things listed in the bylaws weren’t on the website that should’ve been there for students to see, so that bothered me a little,” Brown said. “I’d like to see results over the next month or two to show that they actually are progressing on this issue and moving forward.”
Kevin Arndt, outgoing USG vice president and a fourth-year in political science and public affairs, said one of USG’s main concerns should be being held accountable to the student body.
“I think it’s our duty to hear what students are saying and provide the transparency that they deserve,” Arndt said.
The inauguration for USG’s new session is March 27, and Stepp said creating a new position for uploading public files onto the website will be a top priority, although substantive changes might not take place until the following semester due to the committee process.
“At the end of the day, my job is to serve students and I’m going to serve students in the best capacity that I can,” Stepp said. “If people are upset about the transparency of our organization, we will listen to them and revamp our efforts.”