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Davis, California

Monday, June 17, 2024

Editorial: More transparency is a good thing

The California State Senate recently voted in favor of Senator Leland Yee’s (D- San Francisco) Senate Bill 8, which allows for more transparency in public universities across the state.

This new law requires all California higher education auxiliary organizations and foundations that perform government functions disclose financial records, contracts and correspondences to members of the public upon request.

This new law benefiting all supporters of higher education provides a much needed checks and balances system for the University of California and California State University systems.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law at the beginning of the month. When the law goes into effect in January 2012, these provisions will allow for more transparency in both the UC and CSU systems, letting students see where their money is being spent.

Even though it’s great that this is now a law, this systemwide openness would have been worth having when it was first introduced three years ago. The idea for the bill came about when a Sacramento State student was trying to get information from the school’s bookstore about how much the school paid for books compared to what students then paid for them.

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he vetoed Yee’s past versions of the bill because he wanted to protect private interests. For a year, he wasn’t open to discussing making any changes to the bill.

Schwarzenegger used an activist veto to prevent this bill from becoming law, in which he valued private interests over the public good.

This new bill does allow for more compromises, offering good protection for private sources, who are volunteers and donors to UC and CSU, to remain anonymous unless the donors are getting something clearly beneficial from the university. The foundations don’t have to declare themselves public entities subject to the Public Records Act as earlier versions of the bill dictated, allowing donors more anonymity. While that clause reduces transparency, the most important thing is seeing where the money goes.

The fact is, there shouldn’t even have to be a bill that makes university spending public; transparency should be something inherent in a public institution.

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