Akira is the president of her student government, and each week she presides over the meeting of the executive branch. The meetings are open, and sometimes senators or students from across campus attend and observe the proceedings. At one meeting, the final agenda item involves a sensitive disciplinary issue. One member of student government, Joshua, violated the student government conduct code by publishing insensitive, homophobic material, unintentionally, on a private social media page dedicated to the organization. The executive board must discuss his status in the organization. Akira lets the few students in the audience know that the final agenda item requires confidentiality, thanks them for their attendance, and asks them to clear the room.
One student, a senator who knows of the situation with Joshua, becomes upset. Akira ran on a platform that promoted transparency in student government, and the senator accuses her of hypocrisy, demanding that he be allowed to stay and observe the proceedings. Akira knows that in state and federal government, legislators can invoke executive privilege and clear the room, but her student government has no bylaws outlining this right. The senator is well aware of this, and informs her that if he is asked to leave, he will raise the issue for discussion at student senate.
Akira values Joshua’s privacy, and does not feel that it is right to discuss a disciplinary issue in front of another student. The incident was isolated, and occurred in a private group. Akira thinks it is important to fact find and determine the course of action in a private discussion, before allowing any information to become publicly available. Akira is also concerned about transparency, and wants to preserve the integrity of the platform she ran on, particularly in the eyes of other members of student government. Without the bylaws to back her up, Akira wonders if she can insist that he leave.
If you were Akira, would you ask the senator to leave? If you don’t have the bylaws to support your argument, how do you weigh confidentiality and transparency in your proceedings? Should student government organizations have clearly defined rules concerning confidential proceedings? How often is this necessary?