A recent article in the Badger Herald questioned the legality of a “closed” meeting of the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates Oversight Committee. Besides being a long-time champion of free speech and open government, the Herald had a specific dog in this fight –– it was a Herald reporter who was shown the door by university officials.
What’s next? Dare I say lawsuit?
A potential legal battle would concentrate on one point: Is the committee a governmental body? According to the university, it is not because it is “purely advisory.” However, according to the Attorney General’s office, governmental bodies are defined by how they are created, not what they do. And then there’s this:
Minutes from the May 7, 2008 Board of Regents meeting indicate the committee’s formation may have been formal, however. The minutes describe their approval of the tuition increase and then say a Madison Initiative Oversight Board will review the tuition differential annually.
In response to questions on the matter, UW spokesman John Lucas sent me the following:
In the spirit of transparency in which MIU was created, tomorrow’s meeting (9 a.m. in 260 Bascom) and all other meetings will be noticed and open.
There is some confusion that still exists about whether the Regents meeting minutes you mention references a separate committee that still needs to be formed in order to make an accountability report to the Regents.
But that point is really technical and moot– the MIU oversight committee will be considered to be a governmental body for the purposes of the open meetings law and open to all.
Does that mean UW admits fault? Or does it mean that it is simply doing students “a favor”?