Louis H. Katz: Transparency is here

In response to the column “Transparency needs to make an appearance” (Feb. 5, p. 4), I’d like to take the opportunity to provide insight to the author and the GW community at large as to where the “unavailable” information noted in the piece can be accessed – some of it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In truth, the author and I agree on many of the issues discussed in the column but come to very different conclusions regarding the University’s commitment to transparency.

I agree that the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 – mentioned in the column as one of the only available sources of GW financial information – is a dry read. Form 990 is an Internal Revenue Service document that provides specific information regarding the University’s finances. It provides what the IRS asks for and is most certainly not a “page-turner.”

I also agree that “GW’s financial details should be readily available to those who are interested.” And they are. The University Budget Office Web site (www.gwu.edu/~univbud) provides a variety of financial and budget information – including information on the annual operating budget as well as copies of presentations to the Board of Trustees that provide data on the University’s operating budget, capital budget, endowment value and payout and a host of other topics. This macro-level information is available to anyone at anytime via the Internet. In addition, as noted in the column, a copy of the University’s annual report is also readily available to the GW community upon request.

Opportunities for students to engage administrators, including myself, in discussion – to ask questions and get real answers – are available. I meet regularly with student leaders from the Student Association to gather input, discuss topics and answer questions about issues that are important to students. Members of my staff and I also regularly meet with the student media (including editors and writers of The Hatchet) to respond to questions related to issues of concern.

As a source of information for students and the GW community at large, I encourage The Hatchet to ask questions about the information provided online and in other public forums. Where appropriate, we will “drill down” and provide more details to help inform those who are interested. While not everyone will agree with the answers provided, high-level information regarding the University’s operations is not something that is hidden, and my staff and I provide relevant and appropriate information to students on a regular basis.

Another opportunity for students to engage directly with the administration and be actively involved in issues facing the University is through participation in Campaign GW. Campaign GW is a student group started last year and is designed to unite students and administrators to create a better GW. This organization has been actively involved in, among other things, supporting the GW Campus Plan and Square 54 zoning applications. While the column suggests that the group’s involvement may be no more than a “ceremonial gesture,” I encourage you to talk to a member of Campaign GW or attend a meeting or event to see for yourself. I believe you will quickly find that this is not the case.

In closing, there is a variety of information readily available to those who are interested – it is simply a matter of seeking this information. And I encourage the author and The Hatchet’s opinions page to take a moment to do so prior to stating that the information is not made available and is in some way “hidden.”

-The writer is executive vice president and treasurer of the University.

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