Originally published in Student Life.
Last October, Student Life wrote a staff editorial arguing that Social Programming Board and Student Union, both of which vowed increased communication with students in the 2015-2016 school year, owed students more transparency, because of the large amount of funds that go toward its programs. Now, with the hasty announcement that fall WILD is no more, we at Student Life can’t help but feel as if little has changed.
The announcement of WILD’s cancellation came suddenly and with little transparency, with members of both Student Union and SPB searching for the cause of the decision. Left alone in the crossfire were the students at Washington University, whose voices have, as of yet, been unheard in the decision-making process.
After the announcement, both SU and SPB posted statements on social media which encouraged students to participate in the budgetary process through various methods; most prominently by attending the general budget meetings on Feb. 20 and 21. The SU Senate has also released a statement, via the op-ed in this issue of Student Life, which sets out further plans for hearing student voices via an online survey for those that cannot attend the budget meetings. These are all admirable efforts at future transparency, but it is a shame that these options have only been publicized after the decision was made at the top.
But the blame game won’t get us far in this process, and it is unlikely to resurrect a fall WILD. Even among executive members of SU, it seems, there wasn’t a clear consensus as to what should be done.
To their credit, SU has made recent efforts to increase transparency, such as releasing the general budget proposal to all students, as well as plans to release internal documents regarding budgetary processes. These will become important in helping students voice their opinions on the matter of WILD’s cancellation and future issues.
In the aftermath of the confusion, we are still left with a few questions. For one, SU suggested that some of SPB’s funds for fall WILD would be put toward a larger spring WILD, as well as toward debate-related programming. Yet it is still unclear how much of SPB’s funds will be allocated for each purpose. SPB made this confusion explicitly clear in their statement, and we hope that next week’s full budget proposal will help provide some clarity on this issue.
Also called into question is the informal pipeline between SPB and SU. The past two SU presidents formerly held the title of SPB president. Whether this pattern continues is yet to be seen, but if a strained relationship continues between the two groups, we could see other candidates vying for the top spot.
From the student body’s perspective, these groups work best when they most successfully navigate the various opinions of the student body to create great programming, and we hope that this incident will create more effective and permanent communication, not only between the two groups, but with the general student body as well. More politically active students are obviously essential to this approach, and methods such as online surveys could be an essential avenue for them to voice their opinions without sitting through laborious Treasury meetings. Both groups should work together to create the best experience for Washington University. After all, it’s not about which organization is to blame—it’s about the students.