Last Wednesday, College Council (CC) passed a resolution designed to prevent members from voting on funding requests when they have a potential conflict of interest. While CC has considered this standard to be informal operating procedure for years, we are encouraged to see that CC has formally codified its policies concerning conflicts of interest and the best practices to prevent them. It is critical that students can trust CC to make disinterested and objective decisions in regard to funding requests, and this resolution helps CC maintain that trust.
CC chose to limit recusal to CC members who hold leadership positions in an organization that would uniquely benefit from a CC funding decision. This distinction was made in order to ensure that Council was not too exclusive in determining which members could vote on a particular funding request. However, we believe that in some situations, this standard may be a bit too relaxed. One can easily imagine an organization on campus that benefits from the intense dedication of students who do not hold official leadership positions, but who might approach these funding requests as interested parties while in their roles as CC representatives. While a comprehensive definition that strikes a balance between exclusion of interested parties and inclusion of as many voting members as possible could be difficult to reach, we believe that CC should revisit how it measures the commitment of its members to student organizations in order to minimize conflicts of interest.
Further, while this resolution solely concerns funding requests, CC could benefit by expanding the number of situations in which highly interested parties are recused from voting. While funding is a large component of CC’s duties, CC also performs myriad other tasks, including passing resolutions in support of student causes and creating new student groups. While these endeavors would not be as profitable for CC members looking to request more funds for their organizations, they are relevant areas where interested parties could heavily influence debate without declaring their affiliation to an organization. It is important for CC to consider how conflicts of interest can affect the breadth of its substantial operations.
We’re pleased that CC has improved its transparency regarding funding requests, and we hope that CC will also begin to tackle larger issues that concern the student body even more broadly. As the year comes to a close, it would be great to see CC focus on addressing the broader issues that candidates campaigned on in addition to refining its internal policies.