This editorial is in reference to “Student senate, MCTC administration, refuses to release candidate applications” written by Mark Wasson. We, the editorial board think this is an important issue not only at MCTC, but at colleges and universities around the country.
While transparency in government has always been important, it’s a critically important time in history to allow journalists to do their job and hold people in power accountable.
The ordeal to obtain student applications for the open Executive positions brings to light some very important questions regarding student senate and the MCTC administration, specifically what role Shannon Williams, faculty adviser of student senate, actually plays within the student senate?
Tara Martinez’s, Director of Student Life, stance that the candidate applications are not subject to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act because the documents are in the charge of student senate is contradicted by the facts of what CCN knows to be true.
The candidate applications are submitted to Williams as evidenced by the instructions on the Declaration of Candidacy forms which specifically states at the top “Due Tuesday, September 19, 2017 at 12:00pm to Shannon.Williams@minneapolis.edu or hand delivered to Shannon’s office – H.2912” and that Charles Karter, current student President of the student senate, was unaware that anyone but Williams had access to the candidate forms. Robel Tedros, student Director of Legislative Affairs, also voiced frustration that he has yet to receive any of the candidate applications after requesting them from both Williams and Karter.
Williams is the sole receiver of the candidate applications, the sole person who has access to them and as evidenced by her own words – the one who will be releasing the candidate names – regardless of what the student senate bylaws say.
Why has Williams continually pushed requests to access these documents to the student senate when she is the one who apparently has complete control of them?
Why have Martinez, Williams and Karter decided to back such a claim that the candidate applications are not public information because they are owned by the student senate? The student senate in the practical sense has zero control of these documents and have apparently attempted to rewrite the process to change the narrative to align in favorable terms of the administration and student senate.
Why has so much energy gone into blocking this request, but more was not done to ensure the MCTC student body knows that there’s an election beyond word-of-mouth and two social media posts on Aug. 4? That is, until Sept. 7 after CCN told an Executive Board member in an off-the-record meeting that there were more posters regarding a weightlifting competition than there were about the election on campus. Is this why only two students have completed the candidacy forms so far?
While these are all important questions and they should be answered fully, the bigger question is – what is going on at MCTC?
Does the student senate seemingly parrot the wishes of the administration or vice versa? Why has the administration decided to circle the wagons and deny public documents that everyone has a right to access?
According to Martinez and the recent Minnesota court case they cited to block the request, student government is not a government agency. If that’s the case, isn’t their group name misleading? If that’s the case, is the charge to represent the MCTC student body a façade put on by what is essentially another student club? If that’s the case, why say student senate is a democratically-elected governing body when they have uncontested elections?
And finally, if the administration and the student senate is willing to put up this much of a fight on something so minuscule, what else are they willing to keep from the public?