Senate to vote Wed. on opening up committee meetings

This motion was introduced in November and has been presented to Dave Hubin and the Committee on Committees. It was discussed at the February Senate meeting and was scheduled for a vote in March, but delayed because of the important Academic Freedom policy legislation. So there’s been plenty of debate, now it’s time to wrap it up and vote.

If approved, this will mean a change in how committees such as the FAC, SBC, and IAC function. The FAC, for example, requires that elected faculty members agree to secrecy. In theory, this promotes a full and frank discussion between the UO President and the faculty. In practice, it’s just filibustering and ass-kissing.

The AAUP has strongly endorsed open meetings, in its Confidentiality and Faculty Representation in Academic Governance, June 2013. It’s well worth reading the entire AAUP piece, which links transparency to the basic principle of academic freedom – and concludes with this:

Recommendations:

1. Because requiring a pledge of confidentiality as a precondition for participation in any governance activities, other than serving on committees that deal with personnel matters, is incompatible with widely accepted standards of shared governance, faculty members should not agree to preemptive confidentiality mandates or agreements.

2. Confidentiality expectations appropriate to various modes of participation in governance
should be specified, and faculty representatives should be mindful of their responsibility to
keep their constituents informed and to seek their opinions.

3. Searches for presidents and other chief academic officers should have an open phase that
allows individual faculty members as well as faculty bodies to review the credentials of finalists, ask questions, and share opinions before a final decision is made.

The links below include many substantive comments for and against this change, from UO faculty and committee chairs. The motion is from Jennifer Freyd-Johnson (Psychology), Frank Stahl (Biology) and Nathan Tublitz (Biology). They have revised it in response to these comments, and I expect this will be an interesting and important debate and vote.

FWIW, I support the motion. I think the onus is on those faculty that want to keep their Senate committee meetings closed to make a convincing case for how closed meetings have promoted strong shared governance at UO. I don’t think they can do it.

Open Committee Meetings

Number: US13/14-19

Date of Notice: Fri, 11/22/2013

Legislation, Resolution, or Policy Adoption: Legislation

Current Status: Notice Given

Motion:

SECTION I

1.1 Whereas the importance of transparency for good governance is recognized by public meeting laws nationwide and by the State of Oregon, and

1.2 Whereas the ability of the University of Oregon Senate to discharge its duties in a responsible manner depends on its unfettered access to relevant materials and perspectives,

SECTION II

2.1 BE IT HEREBY MOVED THAT all meetings of the University Standing Committees, Senate Internal Committees, and Senate ad hoc committees shall be open.

2.2 BE IT FURTHER MOVED THAT exceptions to this policy shall be limited to the following:

a) Meetings to discuss confidential records of students or employees;

b) Meetings to deliberate on on honors, awards, or grants to individuals;

c) Meetings at which a person called to give testimony requests that the testimony be confidential, in which case the meeting shall be closed for the period necessary to protect the identity of the person;

d) and meetings whose topics fall under the exceptions to the Open Public Meetings Law (as listed in ORS 192.660);

2.3 BE IT FURTHER MOVED THAT the Committee shall notify the public of the time, place and intended agenda for each meeting. Said notification shall be submitted for posting on the Senate Web Page not less than two days in advance of the meeting;

2.4 BE IT FURTHER MOVED THAT the Senate Executive Committee shall implement procedures for such reporting; and

2.5 BE IT FURTHER MOVED THAT this legislation becomes effective at the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year.

BACKGROUND

OPML: This motion is compliant with the spirit of the Oregon Public Meetings law (ORS 192.630, 640, 650 and 660).

AAUP: This motion is compliant with the recommendations of the AAUP: “Because requiring a pledge of confidentiality as a precondition for participation in any governance activities, other than serving oncommittees that deal with personnel matters, is incompatible with widely accepted standards of shared governance, faculty members should not agree to preemptive confidentiality mandates or agreements.” (Confidentiality and Faculty Representation in Academic Governance, June 2013)

AFFECTED COMMITTEES as of the date of this Motion:

         University Standing Committees: Academic Council, Academic Requirements, Campus Planning, Committee on Courses, Distinguished Service Awards and Honorary Degrees, Distinguished Teaching Awards, Environmental Issues, Faculty Advisory Council, Faculty Personnel Committee, Faculty Research Awards, Graduate Council, Intercollegiate Athletics, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns, Library, Nontenure-track Instructional Faculty, ROTC Advisory, Scholarships, Scholastic Review, Student Conduct and Community Standards, Student-Faculty Committee on Grievances, Study Abroad Programs, (Tenure Reduction, Retirement, and Emeriti), Undergraduate Council, University Appeals Board, University Hearings Board.

         Senate Internal Committees: Senate Budget Committee, Committee on Committees, Senate Rules Committee, Senate Executive Committee, Senate Nominating Committee

         Ad hoc committees: Various

FAQs:

Q. Why must my committee meetings be open when it deals mostly with personnel issues?       A. You will close your meeting when it is dealing with individuals. When dealing with policies, as opposed to individuals, you will be open.

Q. What if no one is willing to serve on one of the open committees? A. The Senate may decide that Committee isn’t needed.

Q. What happens to a Chairperson who fails to submit the agenda on time? A. After some discussion, the sponsors agreed that neither the Stocks nor the Dunking Stool were appropriate. They hoped that, over time, people would get good at their job. (See how long it took the Senate Chair to get the Senate agenda out on schedule.)

Q. Will committees be able to get their work done if its members are unwilling to speak up in front of strangers, journalists or bloggers? A. That may be a bit of a problem for some members. However, it may be compensated by other members who like the chance to have their views reach an audience. City Councils and School Boards seem to get their work done.

Q. How will we fit everyone into our small room? A. Unless you are serving bodacious goodies at your meetings, you are most likely to have no visitors. In any case, the Chair will limit the number of visitors to those who can reasonably be accommodated. If demand repeatedly exceeds capacity, help to get a larger room can be sought from the Senate Executive Committee; and, BTW, congratulations for attracting such a crowd.

Q. What shall we do if visitors delay our work by asking questions or making comments? A. The Committee or its Chair sets the conditions for the meeting. If visitors’ contributions are not wanted, silence can be a condition of attendance.  If visitor input is wanted, in a regulated manner, a period can be set aside for visitor comments and questions. Desired regulations may be adopted by the individual committees. Of course, these rules must be applied to all visitors without favor.

Q. What about Committees that have rules of confidentiality?  A.  As indicated above, confidentiality agreements are disapproved of by the AAUP. In any case, the right of visitors to attend the meeting cannot be contingent on the signing of such an agreement.

Financial Impact:

Negligible

Sponsor:

Frank Stahl (Biology), Professor Emeritus
Nathan Tublitz (Biology), Professor
Jennifer Freyd (Psychology), Professor

Related Documents:

Feedback from Committee Chairs about open meetings

Email from General Counsel Randy Geller regarding Public Meetings Law and the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee

Alternate opinion regarding Public Meetings Law

Feedback from former Faculty Advisory Council Chair Kim Sheehan

Feedback from former Faculty Advisory Council member Edward Kame’enui

Feedback from Committee on Committees member Anne Laskaya

Open Letter to the Senate on Making FAC Meetings Public

Redlined version of motion, updated 04/15/2014