Shared governance: A series exploring public access

The Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) tabled a vote earlier this month to amend student government bylaws due to inconsistencies and the fact that the current bylaws were out of date, as The Collegian reported on Oct. 9. A majority vote was taken during the meeting while one of the senators was not present.

Student activists and organizations immediately flagged ASI for not adhering to practices outlined in the current bylaws, prompting several students to contact members of student government and university officials regarding matters of transparency and advisory for senate meetings.

Following the meeting, ASI was criticized for taking action on bylaws without a full two-thirds majority and not making their bylaws readily accessible for viewing.

At the heart of the disagreement is the balance between shared governance and the public’s ability to access information.

The Collegian sat down last week with ASI executive’s president Jessica Sweeten, vice president of finance Lauren Johnson and executive vice president Alex Andreotti as well as members of various on-campus organizations and student activists to discuss the bylaws and recent actions taken by student government.

Graduate student Hector Cerda said that he was unable to access the bylaws following the Oct.7 meeting. After the meeting Cerda went to the ASI office and requested a back copy of the bylaws but said that he was turned away.

“I was told that bylaws were not kept at the ASI office and that they were housed at the library,” Cerda said.

According to Cerda, when he went to the library to research the bylaws he was unable to find any of the back copies.

“From my understanding, it is written in the bylaws that I can go in at anytime and be able to inspect the bylaws,” Cerda said. “I also tried going online as of the most recent senate meeting and couldn’t find [the bylaws]. By not having the bylaws posted online we are being denied our rights.”

However, the ASI Web site has been under construction since the summer. The revamped Web site went live last week, according to ASI executives.

“We started this summer redesigning our Web site because we realized it wasn’t really accessible in terms of layout for students,” Andreotti said. “So we decided to revamp it, which took a lot longer than we expected because of different issues with codes and passwords.”

Andreotti said that previous versions of ASI bylaws are always on the Web site.

“Accessibility has never been a problem,” Andreotti said.

However, Andreotti acknowledged the fact that documentation was still being uploaded to the site.

Andreotti also said that students are welcome to visit the ASI office and request a copy of the bylaws or fill out a public records request if they are interested in obtaining specific documentation.

The three executives said that no students have ever been denied copies of the bylaws.

Physical copies of bylaws, however, are not kept inside of the library. At the end of the academic year, agenda packets and minutes from the biweekly senate meetings throughout the year are collected and placed in a binder. The binder is then copied and sent off to four separate places on campus for archival purposes.

Still, Cerda feels that ASI has been negligent in making bylaws available for students and that actions taken by the executives have been disreputable.

“I think that it is important that those bylaws are always made available for any student who wants to access them,” Cerda said. “It is a question of legality, because all 21,000 plus students at Fresno State are members of ASI.”

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