To Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, UC President Mark Yudof, California Legislators and Regents of the University of California,

This is a call to regulate closed sessions by legislative bodies of the Associated Students of the University of California.

Various California laws express the clear opinion that open meetings are a vital part of democratic government. The Brown Act ensures local governments conduct their business publicly and has included community colleges by an Attorney General opinion in 1992. The Bagley-Keene Act lays out procedures all state agencies — including the UC Regents — must follow in closing a meeting. The Gloria Romero Open Meetings Act applies to the governing councils of all Cal State schools. The only public higher education legislative council in this state unregulated by an open meeting act is ASUC. While existing laws could have been applicable to ASUC, a 1983 Attorney General opinion exempted bodies with powers delegated by the Regents. As a result of this decision, the letter of the law permits our student representatives to conduct business as secretly as they like.

With representatives elected by the students and multi-million dollar budgets of student fees to spend at their discretion, ASUC cannot be described as anything less than a legitimate government. This alone necessitates transparency, but the need for oversight has been compounded by recent incidents. ASUCSB’s Legislative Council has abused the power to eject the public, holding closed meetings for the second consecutive week without offering sufficient rationale for their closure. Regardless of the subject matter of these closed sessions, it is disturbing that the group entrusted with student money and governance has no legal obligation to conduct business openly.
Further allegations have plagued ASUCSB, including the alleged trashing of a rented villa while on a student fee-funded retreat. While the transparency promised on the campaign trail should compel the responsible individuals to admit their mistakes, the public has instead been kept entirely in the dark as ASUCSB members close ranks in an attempt to protect them behind legal procedure and stonewalling. Student demands for accountability can be heard loud and clear — a Facebook group entitled “Hold Associated Students accountable for their actions” garnered almost 1,400 members one day after its creation. In this current budget crisis, students bristle at the idea of ASUC spending their fees without any form of public oversight. An open meeting act geared toward UC student government would regulate when and how ASUC can hold a closed session, rather than allow them to do so whenever they would prefer to legislate unsupervised.

As guardians of the integrity and reputation of the University of California, we urge you to join with us in supporting legislation to hold UC student government to the same accountability standards to which other California public higher education student governments must adhere. Transparency in the legislative, fiscal and ethical arenas is vital to the quality and credibility of this university, and it is appalling that these abuses by student government have gone unchecked until now. By proposing an amendment to an existing open meeting act or drafting a new act specifically designed to keep ASUC publicly accountable, we can ensure that our student governments answer to the people they claim to represent.

The Daily Nexus editorial staff, UC Santa Barbara