Trusting the Board: transparency crisis at LC

Illustration by Miceal Munroe-Allsup

By Mackenzie Herring

When important decisions are made without public input, or rather a lack of transparency is sensed by the general public, it is often the case that malignancy is assumed of the collective governing bodies. The Lewis & Clark Board of Trustees, a group whose inner workings, members and general motivation most students are not familiar with, is particularly easy to project dissatisfaction onto. While the Board is flawed, it lacks an astounding amount of information of which they crucially need to even address important decisions. The Board was unaware of the new smoking and tobacco use protocol, alongside the decision to remove the designated smoking areas. The Board was also unaware of the crisis surrounding the Counseling Service and the lack of funding that was diminishing since the gift was given five years ago. These are two large issues that are painfully relevant to LC students, regardless of the way that the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) had to bail out the administration to keep the center functional. The ability to be self-governing can only go so far if the body is not afforded any insight into major issues.

Directing suspicion and disappointment towards the Board on the basis of these issues, and other passed resolutions, is misguided. The Board usually is presented with resolutions by the administration, and in some cases are not spoken to at all regarding problems on campus. For a Board whose main function is to maintain and improve the college’s future, the fact that they do not know about a problem pressing enough to students to warrant several articles in the school’s paper, even when it is made available to them, is shocking and disappointing. This leaves me with the sincere question of whether the administration neglected to look for solutions to the lack of funding and did not approach the Board with the problem. Instead, they ended up relying on student government for a quick fix. Are they not paying attention, or are they tabling important issues?

Despite this glaring problem with administrative transparency, perhaps it is the structure of the Board that is the underlying issue. There are two student representatives, typically the ASLC president and the chair of the Student Academic Affairs Board, and two faculty representatives from the College of Arts and Sciences. The problem with this is that they are non-voting members, and the student representatives only recently began having a literal seat at the table and the ability to deliberate with the rest of the Board. Despite recent initiatives for the Board to be more accessible to the student body, including the Board members having lunch in Fields Dining Hall, they do not advertise these dates and do not make their dockets available. But who decides that students and faculty cannot vote, and who decides to keep the Board so secret?

It seems that LC is finally facing a transparency crisis. The Board wants to know more of the issues but does not advertise what their role is in problem solving, or even when these decisions are made so students can stay updated. The administration does not share issues with the Board, but instead ends up going to the student government for help with the issues. The students tend to care more about the impact of a decision than they do about giving feedback before the decision is even made. It is not the job of ASLC to solve the transparency crisis, nor is it the job of the Board, but it seems that the collective LC community cannot agree upon what exactly they mean by transparency and on how much of it we can handle. These detrimental lapses in communication make me feel that there are issues at LC that are being overlooked by the administration.

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