Letter to the editor: SGA president discusses Confucius vote

Jay Todd Richey

On Tuesday night, the Student Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass a resolution to disapprove of the process by which the soon-to-be-built Confucius Institute project was handled and approved. This vote was the culmination of weeks’ worth of efforts to ensure that the student body would have a chance to express their views on that process. By passing this resolution, they did so loudly and clearly.

As has been reported in the past few weeks, the Confucius Institute contract was signed by President Gary Ransdell in China last December. Over a month later, the Board of Regents voted to approve the building this contract authorized. Many controversial details regarding the building’s use and sources of funding, as well as the length of the contract, were not disclosed beforehand. Had the regents had full knowledge of the terms of the agreement, it is unknown whether or not they would have approved the building.

Our resolution firmly states that it was inappropriate for so few details to have been shared with the Board — including the Student Regent — prior to their vote. I hope this will send a clear message to the administration that we believe accountability and transparency should always be top priorities in the decision-making process at WKU.

During debate over the resolution on Tuesday, some senators suggested that this would somehow set a dangerous precedent. In fact, nothing in the resolution would set any kind of precedent, other than that we believe that the Board of Regents, including the Student Regent, should have all the information they need to make a fully informed decision on whatever proposal is before them. If that’s the precedent we’re setting, count me in.

Some senators also said that by voting for this resolution, we have made powerful enemies and bitten off more than we can chew. I cannot disagree more. Not only do I personally know and respect President Ransdell and his position, but I also look forward to working with him throughout the year on the many issues where we agree. What does concern me, however, is the implication that SGA should shy away from controversial topics solely to avoid pushing buttons. Being deliberately and unnecessarily provocative is one thing; sticking up for our constituents — and sticking up for what is right — is quite another. And I intend to do that, no matter what.

Now that SGA has formally expressed its view on the Confucius Institute issue, I look forward to moving forward and tackling the many pressing issues facing the student body. We are in the early steps of launching unprecedented efforts to promote environmental sustainability, increase awareness about sexual assault and how to prevent it and enhance campus inclusion and diversity in representation, and we will need all the help we can get. Please come out to our Senate meetings on Tuesday nights at 5 p.m. if you’d like to learn more.

When I look at the challenges we face and the energy and enthusiasm we have to confront them, I am incredibly excited. While no one can predict what will happen over the course of eight months, it’s safe to say that we started the year off with a bang, and I don’t think SGA will get any less interesting from here.

—SGA President Jay Todd Richey