Letter to the editor

The following is a transcript, with one misspoken correction, of comments made by a student at the Sept. 20 Faculty Senate meeting. The student submitted the transcript as a letter to the editor.

Hello. My name is Ross Best. I’m a student. I’ve spoken before about the scandalous refusal of the University to comply fully with [the] requirements for public participation, open meetings and open documents.

Our new president repeatedly promised transparency last semester. But in April, the Kaimin had a telling headline: “Public sees public information, UM administrators get nervous.” At a dean’s meeting, someone carelessly committed an act of transparency in front of witnesses.

Against all decency, some actual information about likely areas for cuts appeared on a graph in a slideshow with reporters nearby. Reporters being what they are, photographs were taken. Administrators being what they are, a recess was called.

And then the interim provost at the time, the dean of the law school, whispered to the president some of the most profound words in the history of this university. He said: “Fuck, fuck, fuck. What do we do?”

What they did, of course, was take down the graph. Forget about “Lux et Veritas.” Thanks to the Kaimin, we now know the real motto of the University.

Over the summer, the Cabinet, the deans and ECOS, your executive committee, held more illegal meetings without proper public notice and opportunity for public comment.

Increasingly, Cabinet meetings, like Budget Committee meetings, are just canceled. And when Cabinet meetings are sort of open to the public, most of the agenda items are just “updates.” The process has “evolved” so that most of the big decisions are still dealt with only behind the scenes.

The word around campus is that the administration is borrowing a trick from private business and reducing the number of meetings in favor of “huddles,” informal micro-meetings, almost like just casually bumping into each other in the hallway, designed to be under-the-radar and fall between the legal cracks.

The sports metaphor of “huddles” is sadly appropriate, since courts sometimes call the kind of secrecy game our public university plays “hide the football.” In other words, the system is too often designed to obstruct, not facilitate public participation and public accountability.

The Faculty Senate should be doing more to hold the university administration accountable when it comes to public participation, open meetings, and access to documents. But to do that the Faculty Senate and ECOS need to clean up their own act.

Thank you.

Ross Best

UM Grad Student