Open records, open eyes

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” said the distinguished Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. The idea that having the right to pull back the curtains and see what might be going on behind them is an idea that Americans hold dear.

We celebrate the right to privacy; we make it known our business is our very own and at least when it comes to government, we have a right to know how our money is being spent.

The right to know is an essential right in a democracy, and that’s why we feel it important to make students aware they have the right to look at how their tuition dollars are being spent at Murray State.

Businesses and institutions that receive federal or state funds are required by law to publish their budgets for public view, and this is something that students need to be aware of and take advantage of – to make their voices heard in the budget review process.

Students cannot be engaged in running their own campus if they aren’t aware of where their tuition is headed.

We can yell until we’re blue in the face that we aren’t well represented, that tuition shouldn’t have to go up and any number of things, but the fact of the matter is if we don’t know what we’re talking about, we won’t be taken seriously.

Herein of course lies the beauty of open records laws. The “sunlight” shone upon the budget gives students a powerful tool, a “disinfectant” with which to influence policy on campus and make themselves heard.

What we don’t have in administrative experience or power can be made up in our command of knowledge as students – it’s something we can all use to make our campus a better place by speaking with our Student Government Association representatives on these critical issues, going to budget planning and review meetings and simply speaking out.

Engagement on the part of students has been lacking over the past few semesters. Turnout for SGA elections last spring was abysmally low and some races weren’t even competitive.

Students are largely absent from budget planning and review teams and there wasn’t the least bit of an uproar on campus when the city of Murray voted to impose a city sticker tax on students who may only live in Murray a few months out of the year.

We have been hard on the administration at times this semester for legitimate reasons – however, we should not discount the pattern of resignation in the student body to important issues on campus and in the city.

Open records gives us a chance to play on a level playing field. It’s time to play the game.

The staff editorial is the majority opinion of the editorial board of The Murray State News.