Opinion: Universities need to be accountable to taxpayers

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For some Boise State students, the future is crystal clear. Whether it be owning a business, acting in theatre or living in the political sphere, big dreams run wild through our campus. However, with these dreams, come limitations. For some students, this means being a small business owner rather than a corporate CEO. For others, this may mean the jeopardization of their quality of their education and personal safety due to a lack of transparency, specifically affecting the students at Boise State University.

Problems with defining transparency are found foremost in our own government administration. Citizens of the United States search for government transparency–some believe classified documents ought to be distributed to the public, and others simply want to see IRS tax returns. Transparency opens a discussion most Americans can agree on from at least one angle; that said, it is also important to recognize this epidemic of blurry vision doesn’t stop at the national level of government.

According to the Student Press Law Center, America’s public schools and colleges spend $1.1 trillion a year but often shun public input and accountability. In translation, public universities are funded entirely by taxpayers, yet lack the integrity to ask their donors for input on the future of said universities. While taxpayers can’t expect an administrative-like rule over the governing bodies of American universities, they can, and do, expect respect by an organization that claims to be educative and integral towards the students whose educations are fostered within the college environment.

As per the historical proof of lack of government transparency, an absence of administrative transparency creates skepticism and corruption amongst the members of governing bodies, thereby creating a rift in the trust between the university and the taxpayer, as well as that same relationship between the university and the student. These tensions can be more pronounced among certain groups of taxpayers. In fact, the Pew Research Center reports that U.S. Republicans have an overwhelmingly negative view of colleges and universities in America, with a staggering 58 percent, which can be potentially problematic given Boise State’s location in a solidly red state. In recent years, we have seen this lack of transparency come to light in particularly daunting circumstances, including freedom of speech laws and sexual assault.

Regarding Boise State, it is crucial to evaluate the systems that are in place for the sole purpose of informing students; it wouldn’t be a fair argument to exclude the steps that have previously been taken to eliminate a lack of transparency. One example is Boise State’s BroncoAlert system.

BroncoAlert is Boise State’s emergency alert system, created to inform students and faculty of emergency or suspicious events on or around campus. Most recently, students received a message regarding an armed robbery near the Broadway Bridge–the suspect was armed, and the Alert included a description of the suspect in question. As BroncoAlert is only used for “emergency” situations, things like so-called disclaimers on other events are sent separately through the Department of Public Service. One of these non-emergencies came in the form of an email:

“Recently, the Boise State Department of Public Safety has received reports of sexual misconduct from members of the Boise State community. These reports involved different situations and perpetrators. While the reported incidents themselves did not meet the criteria for notification of the campus community, we felt it was important to send out a Campus Crime Safety Awareness Notice to remind the community of conduct that violates our policy and to ensure the campus is informed of resources available to victims.”

A message from October, the Department of Public Safety aimed to warn students of the dangers associated with sexual assault–yet, not once was one of the predators mentioned. While the email is an important sentiment when regarding the safety of the students, it doesn’t cover the pieces of the puzzle that are needed the most to create a picture. This message to students is the most recent example of a growing epidemic stretching across the nation, failing to prepare students for what actually has the possibility to arise.

All in all, classified information shouldn’t be top secret. But without the proper measures in place to learn what students “need-to-know” rather than just what the University wants to tell them, safety and corruption will forever be concerns to students and the taxpayers who support the functionality of the educational environment. This transparency is likely the only path to complete trust within those relationships, while narrow, still possible. Proper measures, not determined solely by University standards, must be taken to ensure the genuine educational and administrative growth in regards to students, and the current methods simply won’t do. Informed citizens are necessary to a well-run education system.


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