It cannot be said enough, the University Board of Regents must maintain complete transparency. The public’s trust was violated when the start time of the Oct. 13 regents meeting was unexpectedly changed. The regents also violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act by moving the start time without enough prior notice, according to an attorney familiar with the law. The regents are entrusted with making important decisions that affect students and must make every effort to ensure their doors are always open — literally and metaphorically — to University students.

Last Thursday, the Board of Regents held its monthly meeting. The meeting was originally scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. in Flint. But that morning, its start time was moved to 2 p.m. The Michigan Open Meetings Act of 1976 stipulates that a public body must give “a public notice stating the date, time and place ” no less than 18 hours before a regular meeting is being rescheduled.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald confirmed the decision to change the meeting time was made Thursday morning. A notice was posted on the board’s website and certain members of the University of Michigan-Flint community were informed via e-mail.

While this wasn’t considered a legal violation of the Open Meetings Act by the University’s Office of General Counsel, it was still unethical of the board to change the meeting’s start time on such short notice. The University is a public institution, and the regents are elected by the Michigan voters. As a result, the public expects the regents to be open about all proceedings and discussions at meetings in accordance with state law. Thus, it should strive to always keep the public informed about meeting times and locations well in advance, and ensure adequate notice of adjustments.

The regents are responsible for making important decisions concerning the student body. As Southfield, Mich.-based attorney Lisa Rycus Mikalonis told The Michigan Daily, “you need to have access to the decision-making processes of the public bodies.” The board’s recent action limits students’ access to them and the decision making process.

Many important decisions were discussed at Thursday’s meeting, including granting an honorary degree to Winter Commencement speaker and New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson. The regents argue there were no members of the public signed up to speak during the public comment period, so the time change had little effect. Though no one was signed up to speak in advance, any student should have the opportunity to attend the meeting — even at the last minute — and listen and contribute to the discussion.

The matter comes down to the principle of transparency. Whether the meeting is well attended or not, the regents have a duty to ensure that everyone’s voice can be heard. This means making an effort to present correct information about the meeting and ensuring that if any changes occur, the public is notified according to the Open Meetings Act. The regents cannot make decisions behind closed doors, and students should always have the opportunity to be a part of discussions.

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