No Transparency Without Functional Transparency

The current situation for students here at the University of Hawaii at Manoa is rather unfortunate - UH Manoa is currently facing a fiscal crisis. But this post isn't to talk about the details about the budgetary crisis - it's to talk about the lack of details.

State entities are supposed to be transparent - when taxpayer money is involved, transparency is called into place to help make sure that there isn't anything fishy that is happening in the background. The University of Hawaii at Manoa is a state college. General Funds, or G-Funds as they're called are allocated to the University by state legislature. There is definitely taxpayer money that is involved here.

Although there is taxpayer money involved, there is no real functional transparency. A student or any individual would have an extremely difficult time trying to follow where the money in the University flows. As a Computer Engineering student, this is extremely frustrating. If there isn't any way to freely and easily find out where money goes, is an organization really transparent?

When the interim chancellor made his budget presentation to the UH Manoa Campus he mentioned that he was convening a special budget committee to help figure out what was happening with the budget. The interim chancellor seems sincere but the question remains: why does a budget committee need to be formed to travel around the university and figure out what is going on?

If a group of paid, salaried university employees needs to spend weeks traveling around the various departments of the university to really track where money is going, what hope do students have of trying to figure out what the heck is going on? As long as the barrier to entry is high enough, information can still be hid and obscured. So really, there is no true transparency without functional transparency, where information can be easily obtained.

For the sake of it's students and the residents of the state of Hawaii, the University of Hawaii at Manoa must realize that having transparency is not the same as functional transparency. In a functionally transparent organization information is easily accessible to individuals. The more eyes there are on a particular organization the less chance of something going as horribly wrong as it did.


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