Senate to meet, vote on ending athletic subsidies

Amazingly, the UO Senate President is not allowed to use UO’s email system to send email to the faculty or other Senate constituency listservs. Emails from the President must be approved by the the administration, to make sure they are consistent with the administration’s email policies, and then forwarded by them. Below is the email from Senate President Margie Paris, announcing Wednesday’s meeting, forwarded by Provost Coltrane’s office. I believe it is the first notice of a Senate meeting sent to faculty this academic year.

The most contentious issue on the agenda will be the motion to require President Gottfredson to end several of the more egregious subsidies to the athletic department, and require them to start paying some money to UO for academic purposes such as academic scholarships, as the Senate has been trying to do since 2000. This vote is not mentioned in the official email:

Sent on behalf of Margie Paris—

Dear UO Community,

Next Wednesday’s Senate meeting will feature several important items (see the Senate agenda here: http://senate.uoregon.edu/content/senate-meeting-agenda-february-12-2014), and I urge you to share your views about them with your Senator and to attend in person.

Among the matters under consideration is a motion that will be brought to the floor of the Senate at a future meeting. The motion calls for open meetings of many university committees and for advance notice of committee meetings. Because the motion would change the way university committees have operated, we’ve created a two-step process for processing the motion: first a discussion in the February meeting and then a vote during a later meeting. In addition, I’ve solicited feedback from current Senate committee chairs and committee members, and I’m attaching to this email a PDF containing that feedback. (located at end of message)

Thank you for your attention to these vital matters.

Best, Margie Paris

President, University of Oregon Senate (2013-14)

Update: See here for more on the open meetings law.

The Melinda Grier opinion is particularly interesting.

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8 Responses to Senate to meet, vote on ending athletic subsidies

  1. Youngin says:

    Even Grier conceded that the Senate was a public body because it has statutory authority to make decisions about “curriculum” and ” students discipline”. Grier/Geller’s argument is that it is not a public body when it meets to discuss other things…which is silly. First of all, it is hard to imagine that anything at a university isn’t related to “curriculum.” But more so, this is completely irrelevant.

    The AGs manual states: “The Public Meetings Law applies to all meetings of a quorum of a governing body for which a quorum is required in order to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision on any matter.”
    That’s right *all* meetings on *any* matter.

    If a meeting is subject to public meeting is determined by a 4 part test which is put simply at http://www.oregon.gov/transparency/Pages/PublicMeetingNotices.aspx
    Does the meeting involve a government entity of any type – local, regional or otherwise? (This entity is known as a “public body.”)
    Do the people attending the meeting have authority to make decisions or recommendations to the public body? (This group is known as a “governing body.”)
    Is a quorum required for the governing body to meet in order to make a decision?
    Is the governing body planning to make a decision or deliberate toward a decision of any type at the meeting?
    Most campus comittee meetings clearly pass all four parts…

    The only thing the Grier/Geller position has to support it is this from the AG manual:
    “If a quorum of a governing body gathers to discuss matters outside its jurisdiction, it is not “meeting” within the purview of the Public Meetings Law.[19] In making this determination, the focus typically will be on the authority granted to the particular governing body and any written policies or directives governing that authority.”
    Which cites an AG opinion (38 Op Atty 1474). Unfortunately, this opinion is not included in the appendix of AG opinions, and I suspect is incorrectly cited.

    Regardless, it is hard to believe that Grier/Geller’s interpretation of this is correct. If the senate describes itself as meeting, and requires a quorum, then it isn’t just some meeting of people that happens to share members. Furthermore, the authority of the university senate has “written policies or directives governing that authority” such as the UO constitution that lay out the quorum requirements and give broad power to the senate. I’m pretty sure that what this is actually about is something akin to the issue in Harris v. Nordquist (1989)–namely, can enough members of a public body to form a quorum meet so long as they don’t deliberate towards decision on “any matter” (the answer is yes but that is a totally different situation).

    The case law and history of AG opinions is pretty one sided in supporting the view that university committees are subject to open meeting. STUDENTS FOR ETHICAL TREATMENT v. IACUC established that that IACUC (a minor committee at the UO) was subject to open meeting requirements way back in 1992. 44 Op Atty Gen 69, June 27, 1984 says ASUO is a “public body.” Letter of Advice (OP-6248), October 13, 1988 implies that advice to the President on matters that are in the exclusive jurisdiction of the SBHE is actually advice to the SBHE (a public body).

    The grand takeaway is the Grier/Geller are on incredibly shaky footing on this. Trust them at your own risk. The OPML applies. Get over it.Even Grier conceded that the Senate was a public body because it has statutory authority to make decisions about “curriculum” and ” students discipline”. Grier/Geller’s argument is that it is not a public body when it meets to discuss other things…which is silly. First of all, it is hard to imagine that anything at a university isn’t related to “curriculum.” But more so, this is completely irrelevant.

    The AGs manual states: “The Public Meetings Law applies to all meetings of a quorum of a governing body for which a quorum is required in order to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision on any matter.”
    That’s right *all* meetings on *any* matter.

    If a meeting is subject to public meeting is determined by a 4 part test which is put simply at http://www.oregon.gov/transparency/Pages/PublicMeetingNotices.aspx
    Does the meeting involve a government entity of any type – local, regional or otherwise? (This entity is known as a “public body.”)
    Do the people attending the meeting have authority to make decisions or recommendations to the public body? (This group is known as a “governing body.”)
    Is a quorum required for the governing body to meet in order to make a decision?
    Is the governing body planning to make a decision or deliberate toward a decision of any type at the meeting?
    Most campus comittee meetings clearly pass all four parts…

    The only thing the Grier/Geller position has to support it is this from the AG manual:
    “If a quorum of a governing body gathers to discuss matters outside its jurisdiction, it is not “meeting” within the purview of the Public Meetings Law.[19] In making this determination, the focus typically will be on the authority granted to the particular governing body and any written policies or directives governing that authority.”
    Which cites an AG opinion (38 Op Atty 1474). Unfortunately, this opinion is not included in the appendix of AG opinions, and I suspect is incorrectly cited.

    Regardless, it is hard to believe that Grier/Geller’s interpretation of this is correct. If the senate describes itself as meeting, and requires a quorum, then it isn’t just some meeting of people that happens to share members. Furthermore, the authority of the university senate has “written policies or directives governing that authority” such as the UO constitution that lay out the quorum requirements and give broad power to the senate. I’m pretty sure that what this is actually about is something akin to the issue in Harris v. Nordquist (1989)–namely, can enough members of a public body to form a quorum meet so long as they don’t deliberate towards decision on “any matter” (the answer is yes but that is a totally different situation).

    The case law and history of AG opinions is pretty one sided in supporting the view that university committees are subject to open meeting. STUDENTS FOR ETHICAL TREATMENT v. IACUC established that that IACUC (a minor committee at the UO) was subject to open meeting requirements way back in 1992. 44 Op Atty Gen 69, June 27, 1984 says ASUO is a “public body.” Letter of Advice (OP-6248), October 13, 1988 implies that advice to the President on matters that are in the exclusive jurisdiction of the SBHE is actually advice to the SBHE (a public body).

    The grand takeaway is the Grier/Geller are on incredibly shaky footing on this. Trust them at your own risk. The OPML applies. Get over it.

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  2. Old Man says:

    Internal UO Governance is not subject to the Oregon Public Meetings Law. The University is subject to the spirit of that law only because it chose to honor the spirit of the OPML in its Constitution:.
    “8.2 The University Senate shall normally meet during the academic year at least once in each month. The schedule, location and agenda of University Senate meetings shall be posted and those meetings shall be open to the public. The University Senate shall keep minutes of the meetings, and such minutes shall be accessible to the public. Valid exceptions shall be restricted to meetings dealing with faculty awards and to those specified by the Oregon Public Meetings law (ORS 192.640, 650 and 660). Upon including in the public record one or more of the above specified justifications for going into executive session, the University Senate President shall be allowed to close a meeting to non-senators.”
    The Committees of bodies that are required to follow the OPML are required to follow that law, as well. Thus, the several committees of our Local Board (which IS a governing board and is required to follow the OPML) will,each and every one, follow the OPML.
    UO Senate Committees, as Committees of a body that follows the spirit of the OPML, can be expected to follow that spirit, as well. However, as for the Senate itself, adjustments demanded by the nature of a University, can be made.
    One of the purposes of the Wednesday discussion is to determine just what those exceptions should be and then for Tublitz and Stahl to craft the Motion, to be made in March, accordingly.

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  3. Cat says:

    It is reasonable to expect that some university or Senate committees should not be open, insofar as their deliberations might entail access to confidential or personal information (e.g., FPC, SRC, ARC, student conduct appeals boards, and the like).

    For what it’s worth, to my knowledge, at present only two Senate committees require a quorum: FPC and UOCC.

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    • uomatters says:

      Totally reasonable, and I think the motion already allows for that. In any case the point of this Senate meeting is to raise these issues, for a final draft to be voted on in March.

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  4. Who cares about the Geller? says:

    The Senate can set reasonable rules for open meetings for its committees, just as we have done for the Senate as a whole. Geller may think the law says we don’t have to do this, but we should anyway.

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  5. uomatters says:

    The online DOJ Public Records and Meetings manual explains many of the issues. The committees don’t have to actually have the power to make decisions.

    If a committee makes recommendations to a “public body” the law applies. Because the FAC makes recommendations to the UO President, they are likely exempt, because the DOJ construes recommendations to an individual (e.g. the Governor) to not be recommendations to a “public body”.

    Because the Senate committees make recommendations to the Senate, which I think meets the test of a “public body” I think it’s likely the law does apply, meaning that closed meetings are possible but only in certain circumstances. But I’m no lawyer.

    The full manual is here: http://www.doj.state.or.us/public_records/manual/pages/public_meetings.aspx
    And some simplified guidelines are here: http://www.doj.state.or.us/public_records/manual/pdf/public_meetings_b_1.pdf

    It’s possible committees could avoid the law by not requiring a quorum, but efforts to use this loophole have generally led to trouble.

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  6. Peter Keyes says:

    As I recall Oregon open meetings law, committees or boards that have the power to make rulings or set public policy are subject to open meeting law requirements. If a committee is simply advisory to an individual or entity (which might have this power), its meetings do not have to be held publicly. This applied to the Senate Executive Committee, as its function was to advise the Senate President.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    How can open meetings not be the default? I would have expected that all senate committees would be subject to oregon public meetings law and that our tyrannical administration, or their subjugate ass kissers, would have to push motions in the senate to make them private.

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