Statement on Transparency
Here are the principles behind the data that we publish on our site, adapted from the Open Government Working Group:
- Complete: All public data is made available. Public data is data that is not subject to valid privacy, security or privilege limitations.
- Primary: Data is as collected at the source, with the highest possible level of granularity, not in aggregate or modified forms.
- Timely: Data is made available as quickly as necessary to preserve the value of the data.
- Accessible: Data is available to the widest range of users for the widest range of purposes.
- Machine processable: Data is reasonably structured to allow automated processing.
- Non-discriminatory: Data is available to anyone, with no requirement of registration.
- Non-proprietary: Data is available in a format over which no entity has exclusive control.
- License-free: Data is not subject to any copyright, patent, trademark or trade secret regulation. Reasonable privacy, security and privilege restrictions may be allowed.
Compliance must be reviewable.
“public” means: These principles do not address what data should be public and open. Privacy, security, andother concerns may legally (and rightly) prevent data sets from being shared with the public. Rather, these principles specify the conditions public data should meet to be considered “open.”
“data” means: Electronically stored information or recordings. Examples include documents, databases of contracts, transcripts of hearings, and audio/visual recordings of events. While non-electronic information resources, such as physical artifacts, are not subject to the Open Government Data principles, it is always encouraged that such resources be made available electronically to the extent feasible.
“reviewable” means: A contact person must be designated to respond to people trying to use the data. A contact person must be designated to respond to complaints about violations of the principles.
The documents on this site are living documents, meaning they are likely to change over time. In response to our administration’s slow, bureaucractic processes of approval that have continuously left the community in the dark, we try to publish information as soon as thoughtfully possible and then improve it over time with the help of our readers. By this principle of eventual consistency, anyone on Student Council may edit any document at any time, and the public is also invited to suggest edits for us to approve.
Full, Public History
You can see a full log of changes to this site on our Github. For example, here is the history of this page. Most notes pages include a sidebar providing easy access to the document’s history, as well as an online text editor that allows anybody to submit suggested changes.
Unlike other parts of Cooper’s governance which act only as entities (e.g. “The Board”) or only as individuals (e.g. “The President”), we believe that individual and group responsibilities are not mutually exclusive. Generating a public record of our individual contributions while we work strengthens our accountability and allows us to work together asynchronously. For example, we used our website to collaboratively author a letter to the administration which we then ratified and published.
Types of Notes
Because of the labor involved in recording and transcribing long meetings, Student Council does not typically post word-by-word meeting transcripts.
Most meetings at Cooper appoint a member of the group to take official minutes. These minutes are typiccally made available only to invited members and are reviewed at the following meeting for corrections before being archived.
Unless otherwise noted, meeting content put out by Student Council takes the form of notes. Student Council notes are distinct from transcripts or official meeting minutes in that they are written by students, made available publicly on this website, and are not necessarily reviewed by the meeting members before being posted. While we attempt to convey the tone and content of meetings we attend as accurately as we can — and we often work together to not miss anything — our notes ultimately paraphrase conversations and present things from the representative’s point of view. If you have questions or concerns about how somebody is represented in our notes, get in touch with the notetaker by clicking their name at the top of the page, or email all of Student Council at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public Pseudonymous Notes
When individuals feel like they might be put at risk by having something they said publicly attributed to them but agree that the meeting notes are important to make public, Student Council may publish pseudonymous notes which indentify speakers by group rather than name.
No Public Notes
While Student Council advocates for increased transparency at Cooper Union, we recognize that there are risks to openness which must be handled with tact. If a meeting group asks Student Council to not publish notes, we will honor their request while making the absence of notes explicit on our website.
Further Reading on Transparency
Since launching our website in October 2012, we’ve read and talked a lot about the complexities of transparency in governance. Here are selected readings on the importance of transparency and open data as well as the pitfalls and limitations:
- Open Government: Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in Practice edited by Daniel Lathrop and Laurel Ruma
- Why Transparency Matters by Lee Drutman and Alexander Furnas (Sunlight Foundation)
- When is Transparency Useful? by Aaron Swartz
- Seeing Like a Geek by Tom Slee
- Public Info Doesn’t Always Want to Be Free by Matt Waite