Nikisha Sanders 2015 Q&A: Transparency

When Elections was ordered to remove Nikisha Sanders from the 2015 Election ballot, the committee was told to erase all information about her candidacy from the website. However, Elections firmly feels that there is no situation in which candidates, whether former or current, should be silenced or erased from Election information. As in all circumstances, Elections’ policy is to only edit and/or post candidate-written information with candidate permission. Therefore, with Sanders’ permission, we have posted the Q&A responses she completed prior to her removal.

A number of candidates cited the issue of Board transparency in their manifestos. What does a transparent Board look like to you, and what specific steps would you take to ensure the Board you serve on is a transparent Board? / Many candidates talked about the need for transparency for the board to volunteers/members. What does your vision for transparency entail?

I don’t think a Board will ever be or necessarily should ever be wholly transparent. There will always be pieces of information that have to be kept confidential for legal reasons. There will also be exchanges that will take place in private with various people about various topics that should not be shared. The state of one’s health comes to mind, or other concerns that may impact someone’s work but should be left at their discretion to discuss.

A transparent Board, to me, will answer staff questions as fully as legally permissible, and as individuals when asked. They also will volunteer information and actively ask questions rather than waiting to be approached by staff. I expect a transparent Board to talk to staff, and actively engage with them both as personnel and as people.

They will bring information, plans, and proposals forward as soon as feasible–this may mean immediately or it may mean taking an idea through private brainstorming and then bringing a draft proposal for review and input. It’s the process of allowing for review and contributions that matters most to me, both as things move from Board to staff and from staff to Board, and that I would specifically ask the rest of the Board to do.

A transparent Board would also know how to evaluate items for open discussion versus those that belong in a closed session, and make the agenda known both to personnel and the public well ahead of time. Setting the agenda on a regular and advertised schedule is another specific step I would ask the Board to take.

Due to legal reasons, internal transcripts of meetings are purged every year. However with a lack of consistent and comprehensive information posted to internal and external locations, details of Org interactions can be lost to the abyss. This leaves voters with a dearth of details when attempting to learn about the Org, and in this situation, candidates. What internal remedies would you suggest? And what would you suggest voters do in the mean time in lieu of relying on the rumor mill (FFA & emails) and digging through various social media sites?

Internal transcripts would nearly never be made public for the fact that they are internal, so I haven’t a suggestion to remedy that. However, improving standards for meeting minutes and making those minutes publicly available from each committee is something viable, and that I’d support. Having a standard reporting style for the internal newsletter would also help provide more information.

In the meantime, I would suggest voters first take the rumor mill with a very large grain of salt, and talk to people inside the org whom they trust. Pose direct questions to the candidates if they’ve given a means to do so via social media (some have posts on DW, LJ or Tumblr specifically for that). Follow along with the Q&A and the candidate chats and look at the consistency of answers and how the candidates act and interact during those chats.

The current Board has had frequent issues keeping an available agenda for their weekly meetings, which were often cancelled or cut short due to lack of quorum or matters to discuss. What do you think the purpose of open Board meetings is, and what would you change about the current setup?

I was on the Board when we made the shift from a portion of the meeting taking place in the Chairs’ chat room to the Public chat. The rationale at that point was to make the meetings open to a wider audience and invite more participation from staff and volunteers, not just chairs. We need to return to that process and do a more honest evaluation of which issues can and should be discussed in the open session, and strike a balance between Board having space to brainstorm amongst themselves and turning issues outward for broader input.

As far as setting and making available the agenda, the Board plainly needs to do a better job. There are times it’s worked, and times it’s failed hugely, and again, finding a balance is key, as is setting a schedule and defining parameters for agenda items.

Cancellations due to lack of quorum sometimes can’t be helped–things come up, people oversleep, plans suddenly change. However, in the case of known conflicts, planning ahead and notifying the rest of Board when you can’t make a meeting as soon as possible is the only responsible thing to do, as is giving notice when you’ll be late or need to leave early.