ISSUES OF TRANSPARENCY IN ASUR’S EXECUTIVE BRANCH

The executive branch of the Associated Students of the University of Redlands (ASUR) is charged with a range of academic, social, financial and administrative duties designed to provide leadership to the other bodies of ASUR as well as the general student body. The executive branch consists of the president, vice president, ten other cabinet positions designed to represent different sectors of the university community and three ex-officio members from other branches of government.

 

The preamble of the ASUR constitution–available to all students via the ASUR URconnect page–affirms the value of an “an open, honest, and accessible” student government. In an effort to understand what the executive branch does to ensure these values, the Redlands Bulldog interviewed the current sitting president, senior Kamal Bilal and vice president, senior Amma Adomaa-Fordjour. While both members showed honest intent to uphold the constitution call for such values, a number of inconsistencies arose from investigation; chief among these were a lack of information on current members of the cabinet, references to nonexistent cabinet positions in the constitution and accusations from a previous cabinet member that raised questions about the track record of President Bilal.

 

In an interview on Jan. 19–two weeks into the second semester of the current cabinet’s term–Vice President Adomaa-Fordjour said that the poster located on the first floor of the Armacost Library that displays members of last year’s cabinet was to be updated “today” to reflect the current members. Adomaa-Fordjour claims the delay is due to the negligence of a cabinet member no longer serving.

 

“Someone we have in our cabinet was supposed to be responsible for it and they never got to it, and they are no longer part of our cabinet anymore,” Adomaa-Fordjour said. “So now Kamal’s handling it himself.”

Senate Vice Chair Dawit Aklilu and a Williams Hall representative are excluded from the Senate’s portion.
Photos taken on Jan. 21, 2018 @ 4:45 p.m. Bilal is listed as Co-Executive Director of Inclusion.

However, as of Jan. 21 the poster has still not been updated to reflect the current cabinet, meaning displayed information on members of ASUR has been out-of-date for over half of their tenure.

 

As of Jan. 21, the ASUR page on the University of Redlands official site still lists all positions from the previous administration as well. ASUR’s URconnect page displays only the names and positions of the current president, vice president, advisor and treasurer, though this is a more common practice for previous cabinets.

 

President Bilal explained that ASUR’s page on the university’s official site is run by the university’s Information Technology Services (ITS), though he did not explain why ASUR have not worked with the department to fix the issue.

 

The URconnect page is run by “a variety of people” according to Bilal. Article II, Section 6, c. of the ASUR constitution states an “Office of Publicity,” with the aid of the vice president, is responsible for “maintaining the ASUR homepage.” Nowhere else in the constitution is this office listed by name. When asked about this inconsistency, Bilal explained these duties are now the responsibility of the vice president.

 

 

“One of the VP’s responsibilities is to relay information to the students and be more of a spokesperson,” Bilal said. “But [the Office of Publicity] did get recently moved to her position.”

 

Bilal also mentioned constitutional revisions are being made and will be published to their URconnect page at an undisclosed later date.

Adomaa-Fordjour also had not heard of the Office of Publicity specifically, but agreed publicity was her responsibility. Rather than address the sparsity of members listed on ASUR’s URconnect page–which she says is “not her duty”–Adomaa-Fordjour has plans to extend the cabinet’s reach to other platforms like Instagram and YouTube.

 

When asked directly what the cabinet does to ensure that the constitution’s values of openness, honesty and accessibility are preserved, both Bilal and Adomaa-Fordjour focused primarily on their office hours.

 

“Each [cabinet] member has seven to twenty office hours a week,” Bilal said. “Those are times when we are in SLIC [Student Leadership and Involvement Center] working on projects and being available for the students.”

 

According to Bilal and Adomaa-Fordjour, these office hours encompass both time spent in SLIC and tabling in places like Hunsaker Plaza.

 

“We do five office hours [in SLIC] now and five doing tabling–we’re starting this thing next week called Word Wednesdays,” Adomaa-Fordjour explained. “We’ll have a whiteboard up, and you can ask questions on the whiteboard or take pictures of it and post it somewhere – things like that where we’re more involved on campus than we are [in SLIC].”

 

While the number of office hours claimed to be fulfilled varied, the constitution states that the president must serve a total of 20 hours a week and the vice president 15 hours a week.

 

The Redlands Bulldog was able to use these office hours to interview the president and vice president and the system worked according to description. However, a previous member of the ASUR cabinet has claimed that it had not always worked as expected.

 

Former Co-Executive Director of Inclusion Emma Wade, with whom Bilal served alongside in the 2016-17 cabinet, recalls office hours being “consistently neglected” by him and other cabinet members. Wade was unable to disclose this during Bilal’s campaign for presidency due to policy preventing disparaging comments about candidates from students supporting opposing candidates.

 

“I felt that it was a disservice to the student body that I couldn’t be completely honest about my experience working with Kamal,” Wade said. “I believed, and still do, that every student had a right to know that office hours were consistently neglected. At multiple points, I expressed this to more senior cabinet members and our advisor. It became such an issue that everyone on cabinet had to have a signup sheet and some of us even had to change where and how we did our office hours.”

 

When questioned, Kamal responded in an a email by contending that SLIC, where ASUR offices are located, was always occupied with cabinet members.

 

“Last year, there was a lot of activity in SLIC,” Bilal said. “I felt there were always members of the cabinet there, making themselves approachable to the student body. I do feel that there could’ve been more done to get students up in SLIC […] All in all last year I can say that myself and other members of cabinet did an adequate job of providing quality opportunities for students to voice their opinions.”

 

While Bilal made no direct comment on the negligence Wade described, he claims major changes to the way the cabinet handles its office hours have been made.

 

“This year, in cabinet specifically, we have altered the office hours system in a way that increases our outreach,” Bilal explained. “Instead of waiting for students to come to us, we are going to them. Office hours include: participating in events thrown on campus, tabling, attending clubs/organization meetings, meeting with individual students, faculty or administration and being available in SLIC. We’ve found this new approach to office hours to be more effective. As opposed to just being present in SLIC, we are now able to engage with the student body a lot more.”

 

Wade insists that the activities described are not actually changes, but rather have been part of office hours during her tenure as well. The Redlands Bulldog reached out to several other members of the previous cabinet to ask if they could corroborate Wade’s claims, including the previous president, vice president, executive director of social affairs and executive director of convocations and lectures, but received no response from any of them.

 

Photos contributed by Redlands Bulldog photographers Kristyn Paez and Jonathan Ruhlman.


Sophomore English and Asian Studies major. Writing Tutor in the Student Development Center.


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