The Stony Brook administration confirmed their intent to move forward with enforcing non-disclosure agreements (NDA) for club officers during a discussion at the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Senate meetings on Sept. 5 and Sept. 12.
Director of Student Engagement and Activities, Christine Marullo, explained the university’s position.
“The University and Registrar is actually kind of doing a mandate of this across the board, of student employees of the university, of which you are employees and public servants of the university,” Marullo said. “We’re going to be requiring it for all of our club leaders as we run into issues such as collection of rosters and sharing of information. I think people are harping on what is discussed in senate and obviously what is discussed is public information, but it’s other nuances such as if we want feedback on a flyer, or if you overhear something in the office.”
A senator who proposed an NDA bill for USG, senior political science major, Yamilex Taveras, suggested that senators sign NDAs in situations like last year’s canceled Back to the Brook. The concert, where Ashanti would have headlined, was canceled because only 24 tickets were sold only a week before her performance.
“That Ashanti concert for example — if an artist were to release information to us and only to us, why would we put us ourselves and them in jeopardy of any type of malice?” Taveras said. “Our NDA, which does not even need to be called an NDA to not give people a bad impression about it, could say which details are to be held if not only momentarily. What I am trying to say that there are certain details that are time-sensitive and are also too sensitive to be let out in whatever outlet that we feel like.”
The topic generated a heated debate. Taveras suggested holding off on the discussion until she could draft an NDA example.
“This is my proposal, and I should have brought something for you guys to see already, but what I can do is that we can table this conversation,” she said. “For our next Senate meeting, I will have a proposed NDA that you can all take a look at and look at the language and we can fix it right then and there.”
The discussion was unanimously tabled following the initial proposal and was tabled indefinitely on Sept. 12 following a recommendation from USG Executive Vice President and senior biology major, Mohamed Heiba.
Vice President of Academic Affairs and junior economics and political science major, Justin Ullman, voiced disapproval of the issue.
“Towards the whole situation of NDAs, USG Senate meetings are bound to be public forums by the New York Open Meetings Law,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any legal way for us to prevent anything that happens in a Senate meeting from getting out to the public, because anyone can come and anyone can listen. I’ll say right now that, unequivocally, I am opposed to it.”
According to Section 103 of the New York State Open Meetings Law, “[a]ny meeting of a public body that is open to the public shall be open to being photographed, broadcast, webcast, or otherwise recorded and/or transmitted by audio or video means.”
The topic was the first to be addressed at the Sept. 12 meeting, with Heiba making a statement about the prior week’s discussion.
“Discussion of sensitive topics should be taken more seriously by the members of the undergraduate government,” Heiba said. “We have a system set in place to ensure that any topic needed to be discussed during a Senate meeting has the appropriate context and research before it is brought to the senate floor. Proposals led by a senator or Executive Member need to be addressed in a committee meeting prior to considering for the agenda of a Senate meeting. Points of discussion should be appropriately researched and be proposed at least 48 hours prior to a meeting.”
Heiba further expanded on his point, clarifying the position of the open agenda in each Senate meeting and the topic of NDAs.
“Open agendas are meant for more lighthearted topics such as promoting club events and activities,” he said. “The reason that I mention this is because we tabled a serious discussion about NDAs last week. Based on the fact that we tabled it until this week, I am hoping that the Senate could table it indefinitely until we get the appropriate material needed to discuss the topic during a meeting.”
Immediately following his statement, USG voted unanimously to indefinitely table the discussion of NDAs until further notice, putting an end to the topic for the time being.
Though USG is no longer discussing NDAs as an option, Marullo confirmed after the meeting on Sept. 12 that the university plans to move forward with the idea.
“We’re hoping to get it out by next week — we’re just finalizing some of the language in our club and organization guidelines manual,” she said. “Associate Director for Student Engagement and Activities, Melissa Scuccimarri-Pastor, will be sending an email to all of our club officers, kind of acknowledging that they’ve read or understand the club manual and other university policies and then signing off on the confidentiality agreement with regard to access to student information.”