Back in September, a Silhouette contributor signed up to write a story about a piece of information that was stuffed into an old board of governors meeting agenda. While the contributor was working on the story, the agenda curiously vanished from the McMaster website. The agenda has since returned, being scrapped initially as a byproduct of the Brighter World redesign.
However, the university must maintain a higher standard of information transparency and when it restricts public access to meeting materials, even temporarily, be held accountable to properly notify the public.
After the agenda disappeared from the website, the university did not even feign interest in letting students know. No McMaster Daily News announcement was trotted out. In both failing to make meeting agendas available and communicate about their lack of accessibility, the university made an implicit assumption: the removal of meeting materials was an unnoticeable and insignificant byproduct of the website redevelopment. This assumption is misguided.
It may be true that most students do zealously read through board of governors agendas. However, The Silhouette needs these documents. Our job, in large part, is to hold the university accountable, and we cannot do that when we do not know what is on the university’s agenda. Our role is diminished when it takes us a month to receive a single document.
The university also assumed that the scrapping of these agendas was not important enough to warrant a public announcement. This assumption does a disservice to the university, delegitimizing the discussions held in board of governors meetings in the first place.
Moreover, while not an arm of the university, the McMaster Students Union should not escape scrutiny either. The meeting schedule for this year’s Student Representative Assembly has yet to be updated on the MSU website. How can the MSU expect students to attend SRA meetings when this information is not accessible?
Even amid the Brighter World campaign, the university has virtually no excuse for not making its meeting materials publicly available. If doing so would have presented a logistical challenge, the university should have at least publicized its technical limitations and not destroyed any semblance of transparency.
It took me almost a month to access an agenda. How can the university convince students it is fostering a “Brighter World” when it obscures the most illuminating information about its own plans?