Michigan legislators have introduced a resolution that would subject Michigan public universities to the Open Meetings Act.
To summarize, OMA requires meetings of public bodies to be open to the public. Meeting notes must be made available publicly within eight business days of the meeting. Currently, universities are exempt from the law.
Joint Resolution E would amend the Michigan Constitution and subject public universities to OMA, as well.
The Vanguard supports the resolution.
We attend Board of Control meetings, as we feel it necessary for students to be aware of the discussions that take place during these meetings.
While in meeting sessions, the SVSU Board of Control often breaks out into a closed session and does not start the session until everyone except Board members leave the room. This has been occurring for as long as anyone on staff can remember.
OMA also requires public bodies to make public the minutes from open meetings within eight business days of the meeting.
As of this publication, only the agenda for the Oct. 28 Board of Control meeting is published online. Minutes for the two meetings the board has had this fall are not posted.
This is why The Vanguard is in favor of Joint Resolution E.
Universities should be held accountable for being transparent to its students.
Unlike nearly every other public body, universities are permitted to close any meeting without notice and ask the public to leave.
They are permitted to question why reporters attended a meeting at all. They are permitted to post meeting minutes past the eight business days other public bodies must abide by, or perhaps not post the minutes at all.
Many universities argue they are already abiding by the standards of transparency required by OMA. In at least the case of SVSU, The Vanguard disagrees.
Furthermore, if universities believe they are already transparent and abiding by OMA, why do they oppose formally being subjected to it?
For student newspapers, the OMA exemption is especially troublesome.
Without OMA, reporters are not protected from having their presence at board meetings questioned. If they are unable to send a reporter to a meeting, they are not guaranteed the ability to find meeting notes online in a timely fashion.
Universities’ exemption from OMA creates friction between administrators and students.
By opposing Joint Resolution E, universities send the message to students that they do not find a legal commitment to transparency with regard to public meetings important.