Three weeks ago, The Emory Wheel’s then-news editor reached out to the Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA) President Jared Greenbaum (17M.B.A.) about the location of that week’s GSGA meeting. Greenbaum did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but later revealed the location and said that the Wheel could not send undergraduate reporters to cover GSGA meetings because only graduate students are constituents of GSGA.
Greenbaum said that the GSGA Constitution currently grants them the power to close meetings at any time to attendees — including graduate students — who are not legislators. The GSGA Constitution states that its meetings “shall be conducted as described in the GSGA bylaws.” Those same bylaws are still being debated and discussed, according to Greenbaum, who said that only graduate reporters will be allowed to cover GSGA meetings..
But without independent news coverage of and guaranteed open meetings for student government, student leaders in positions of power cannot be held accountable.
The Emory Wheel is not bound to any divisional school within the University, but rather has a responsibility to report on the entirety of Emory and its community, including thegraduate and professional schools. To deny any Wheel reporter — including undergraduates — access to GSGA meetings not only prevents the Wheel from fulfilling its elemental obligation, one that no other organization pledges to provide to the University; it also betrays a surprising arrogance on the part of GSGA. A newly formed democratic government should be doing all it can to establish itself as a legitimate and transparent organization. As former U.S. President Obama said, “A democracy requires accountability and accountability requires transparency.”
That lack of accountability and transparency is not simply a small detail that went overlooked in the construction of the GSGA Constitution — it is an insult to democracy.
As members of Emory’s student body, we cannot risk the possibility of our leaders acting without students’ knowledge. The current $92 Student Activities Fee (SAF) contribution from the about 7,102 graduate students alone constitutes a budget of approximately $650,000 for the GSGA budget.
Blind trust in elected leaders to implement the vision of student government that we voted for is not enough. Concrete checks, including free press access, are necessary to hold GSGA accountable. The Wheel will continue to do its job and seek and report the truth, but it is now up to GSGA to prove they are a government that values accountability and transparency in the first place.
The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board.