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Resolution in the State Senate would define what information public universities can keep private

Pkay Chelle

A joint resolution in the Michigan Senate would help define what kind of information public universities can keep private.

Right now, the bill supporters say public universities can hold informal meetings that are closed to the public and it is not clear what kind of information can be discussed in these informal sessions.

Republican State Senator Ed McBroom who sponsored the new resolution said he believes some universities are abusing informal meetings.

“Some of our universities are, in my opinion, doing some bad practices when it comes to government accountability to the people. I would like to change that.”

McBroom cited occasions of university boards meeting oversees or dialing in on conference calls as examples of times when informal meetings created a lack of transparency.

Michigan universities have a history with the state’s Open Meetings Act. In 1999, Michigan State University sued over the Open Meetings Act, arguing that making their presidential search public infringed on university autonomy.

McBroom said the courts sided with Michigan State University and since then public universities have not been operating under the Open Meetings Act.

“If you look at our community colleges they operate under the Open Meetings Act and yet they do all the things required of an institution of higher learning.”

McBroom said he thinks there’s a good argument to be made for keeping some things private, like for example, the search for a President.

But, he said, there need to be strict guidelines on what kind of information can be kept out of public view.

He said his resolution, which alters the State Constitution, would allow for laws to be written that define what kind of things universities need to make public.