Editorial: Trustee secrets don’t build trust

Northeastern has ways of holding students accountable. Our schoolwork is graded, and our weekend decorum is subject to punishment if we step out of line. These things are held up to scrutiny, forcing us to take responsibility for the choices we make.

We ask the board of trustees take the same kind of responsibility, and let us take a closer look at some of its decisions.

The board of trustees controls all the money flowing in and out of the school, making it the most powerful body at the university. Every major decision, from raising tuition to hosting the recent presidential inauguration comes before the Board for approval. Each student is directly affected by the decisions these people make. Yet the board seems unwilling to be open about some of its decisions.

One such choice is the logistics of the presidential inauguration. While all agree President Joseph Aoun should be ushered into Northeastern with a warm welcome, a welcome as warm as the recent inauguration is sure to be expensive. To soften the blow, the board promised a large portion of the costs would be covered by donations, not tuition. However, the board has bee increasingly unwilling to comment about the costs of the event, or where the money funding them came from. After repeated questioning, Board Chairman Neil Finnegan refused to give the specific prices of all that went into the event, saying he wanted students to focus on the overall effect of the inauguration, rather than individual costs. It’s nice Finnegan wants to protect the delicate monetary sensibilities of students, but as paying customers, we have every right to know how our money is used. And as for those donations, Finnegan isn’t saying how much we raked in for President Aoun’s big bash. That’s also a secret. We should be privy to the financial breakdown, and if the board is reluctant to share the likely high costs, it should have considered the student body’s reaction before planning the event.

They are also unwilling to come clean about Northeastern’s investments. Schools across the country, including Harvard and Boston University, are becoming more and more open about their investments. Northeastern’s board of trustees, however, has not come forward with information about its investments, causing concern among students who wish to divest any investments we may have in Sudan, which is funding the genocide in the Darfur region. We know many of the universities who became transparent with their investments discovered ties to companies that are connected to Sudan. We also know Northeastern employees are offered Fidelity financial packages, a company that does have ties with Sudan. This may be the extent of Northeastern’s involvement with Sudan, but until the board makes its investments public, there is no way for us to know.

Until then, students should focus on encouraging the board to invest responsibly. It is our money that goes toward these investments, and we have every right to demand it be invested with a social conscience. This is our legacy, and the board should invest and spend our money reasonably. Every penny, nickel and dime of our tuition money should be spent after much consideration. The board should trust the students, come clean about its decisions and be willing to open the floor to any concerns students may voice. Students are responsible. We can handle the truth, as long as the board is willing to give it to us.

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