Opinion: ASB attempts at transparency show a step in the right direction

    Behind the scenes of the cheering crowds and costumed masses that Palo Alto High School’s annual Spirit Week generates, the Associated Student Body attempted this year to amend the scoring system and create a transparent one that could diminish confusion regarding final results.

    Although ASB’s efforts were promising, we believe that further steps could be taken to improve the process.

    The change in scoring was inspired by the frenzy that ensued following the 2011-2012 Spirit Week, during which there were doubts regarding whether the then-senior class had legitimately received the first place position, according to Principal Phil Winston.

    “There was a lot of drama and hysteria last year when the seniors were not winning, and I believe it’s either a competition or it’s not and this year ASB believes the same thing; therefore, it’s a competition,” Winston said.

    Senior Spirit Commissioner Sophie Parker added that the change was also executed because of ASB’s desire to increase its openness with the Paly student body.

    “We decided to do this [change the system] so there is no secrecy and unfairness going on behind the scenes,” Parker said.  “This is super important because we are the student body and we represent everyone, so we feel everyone should know what is happening.”

    To bring about the change and successfully amend the previous scoring structure, ASB made scoring sheets available online, a policy that was newly enacted this year, according to ASB Vice President Soo Song.

    “This year we’re actually posting the scoring sheets online so if you go on the ASB website you can see the score breakdown for every day, which wasn’t something available last year,” Song said. “We also changed the complete scoring system so that each day is pretty fair, and it’s more evenly distributed rather than having a ton of points on the last day.”

    ASB President Jessica Tam also added that this system would make Spirit Week scores more definite and less refutable.

    “This year we’re sticking by all of our rules that everything is totally transparent and that everyone can see where the points came from, and no one can dispute any of the reasons why a certain class won in a certain area,” Tam said.

    We think that although ASB’s process of making the system more transparent was well thought-out, there was a hole in the process of communicating with the student body.

    Throughout the week students could find scores either on the ASB website or Faceook page; however, information as to how scoring was conducted failed to appear. Therefore, students did not know how the judges determined winners in categories such as “Best Dressed” and “Best Cheers.”

    Additionally, although ASB disclosed information describing the maximum number of points that could be deducted from a particular field, the organization did not detail how point deductions were determined. For example, no justification was provided about what warrants a 25-point deduction in sportsmanship.

    In this way, we believe that full transparency has not been attained because the student body was unable to observe the rationale for why certain points were distributed or deducted.

    To maximize its transparency, in addition to posting total scores, ASB should post the judges’ individual scores as well. In doing so, students could gain greater insight as to how scores are totaled.

    However, to all the naysayers out there, we ask that you give ASB some credit. The attempts, although not perfect, show a step in the right direction. In previous years, the student body has only heard claims from ASB that they were aiming to increase transparency, but this year we were able to actually see a change in the way ASB conducts Spirit Week.