Why transparency matters

Wichita State receives more than $70 million in state funding each year. Several key, unelected WSU administrators make more than twice Gov. Sam Brownback’s salary of $99,636 and vice presidents make more than the vice president of the United States ($230,700) — and with so much public money on the line, the public’s right to know how money is being spent and decisions are being made comes with the territory.

The moment a person accepts an administrative position at a public university, like WSU, they become public officials. With their stature comes the responsibility of informing the public — including their students — of their decisions. They receive praise when they succeed and scrutiny when they don’t.  And rightfully so.

In the United States, the way we conduct public business is subject to public scrutiny. Sometimes information leaks and only part of the story comes out. This puts journalists in a precarious position: we can’t ignore important news, and when one side of a story comes out (sometimes putting the university or students in what administrators or student government may perceive as a negative light) and the interested parties don’t release all of the information they can — to clear up any misunderstandings and provide the complete narrative — only one side of the story comes out.

The truth shall set you free.

That’s why the entire situation going on at this university right now is so confusing. If “We the Students,” the Student Government Association and Faculty Senate are off-the-mark with their concerns about corporate influence on the university, a culture of fear of retaliation and a general lack of transparency from the administrators, it wouldn’t take much to convince the public otherwise.

Instead, each week it seems like someone else resigns, some corporate partnership forms, or some student or faculty concern receives a lukewarm response that doesn’t actually address the concern.

It’s easy to say, “The Sunflower isn’t giving the full story,” and it provides a nimble way to sidestep any legitimate concerns. But The Sunflower tries to get both sides of the story and report the facts. If we are not provided with records, documents, or additional context, we can’t simply make up excuses for one side or the other.

A well-informed public is the key to democracy — don’t throw it away.