Ciryam, don’t go all Boss Tweed on student body (Signed…)

Nick Collins

Boss Tweed used his office as mayor of New York to make money.Hopefully Prajwal Ciryam won’t try to exploit his office ofacademic vice president and follow Tweed’s lead.

A project in the Associated Student Government academiccommittee, headed by Ciryam, could provide benefits for his upstartbusiness, NF Booksellers, Inc.

NF Booksellers is an online book service, which plays on thewords “Nuck Forris” in its title, that promises to offer textbooksat half the prices of those offered by the Norris Bookstore. Thepreliminary plan of the for-profit company, founded by Ciryam andtwo of his friends, is to take orders through a Web site anddeliver books by the first day of classes. That’s a win-winopportunity and anyone facilitating this wonder-service deserves alittle profit — if they can pull it off.

It’s clear he didn’t craft the academic committee’s project forhis own purposes, in fact Ciryam is not even directly involved withthe proposal. But Ciryam agrees that he must consciously workagainst any appearances of impropriety.

“I can’t emphasize enough that my first priority is myresponsibility as AVP,” Ciryam said. “Students chose to put me inthis office — it comes before running any side business. I don’twant any ambiguity to exist.”

SHADY CONNECTIONS

One of the difficulties students find with cheaper alternativesto Norris Bookstore, such as Amazon.com, is receiving the materialsin time for classes.

Enter Ciryam’s alternate role: ASG academic vice president. Theacademic committee is working on a project that encouragesNorthwestern’s professors to post book’s ISBN codes, which areunique to each text and each edition, with course descriptions onCAESAR. The practice would make reading lists available inadvance.

Although the project is headed by another member of the academiccommittee, Ciryam does not hide that he oversees all matters on hiscommittee. But he points out that the plan could actually hurt hisside business.

“Putting ISBN numbers on CAESAR is empowering students to makeany number of choices,” he said.

Although Ciryam’s reasoning rings true, it also overlookspossible benefits for NF Booksellers. Once his company’s site is upand a distribution system has been planned, much of the remaininglabor would be gathering the readings lists from hundreds of NUprofessors.

An easily accessible database of reading materials wouldeliminate the need to put in the hours of work that would be neededto maintain the business. Such a system could decrease thecompany’s operating costs.

OUT OF CHARACTER

Ciryam is a dedicated advocate for students, now serving in hissecond term as academic vice president. He most likely would notabuse his office to make a few dollars on the side through improperchannels. But he must resolve to keep the appearance of shadydealings from leaving a black mark on his other work.

“I hope that I have enough scruples to not use the academiccommittee for my own profit,” Ciryam said.

ASG President Jane Lee said in these types of instances it isthe official’s responsibility to clarify such potential conflictsof interest.

“Government should be more transparent,” she said.

And that has to be the case. Ciryam must make good on promisesto keep his constituents informed of his activities as an ASGofficial and as a private businessman.

Ciryam should not have any advance access to the ISBN numbers,which could benefit his company. Students deserve to have everyopportunity to make a fair choice between shopping at NorrisBookstore, NF Booksellers or through a third party.

If he’s not open, Ciryam risks running the same route as BossTweed and being remembered as Lord Praj.

Campus Editor Nick Collins is a Weinberg junior. He can bereached at [email protected] City Watch will return nextweek.