The WSUSA Executive Board can meet behind closed doors, according to legal counsel for Weber State University and The Signpost.
During a meeting Tuesday, lawyers for both parties agreed that the executive board’s weekly meetings can be legally closed to the public.
Student Body President Gregory Woodfield closed Wednesday’s executive board meeting and said he’s working with his team to decide whether or not to open future meetings. “We’ve had good relationships; I don’t see why we wouldn’t,” he said. “And so, we’ll see what happens.”
Lawyers for WSU and The Signpost agreed that the executive board meetings do not have to follow the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act, which would require the meetings to remain open except in specific circumstances.
While the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act does not cover the executive meetings, media attorney Jeffrey Hunt said it does still apply to other student government sessions like senate meetings and fee allocation committee meetings.
According to Hunt, the executive board isn’t governed by the Open Meetings Act because the board wasn’t created by the senate with a resolution, vote or statute. Even so, he said the legal counsel discussed the importance of openness in government.
“Once you get out in the professional world where you’re dealing with city councils and county councils and the state legislature, a lot of these meetings are going to be covered by the Open Meetings Act, and you have to learn to play by those rules,” Hunt said. “It’s good to start that while you’re in college and to understand the value of transparency and accountability.”
The Signpost Editor-in-Chief Charles Bowker said the next step is a “conflict resolution session” with the executive board Nov. 15. Bowker said Adrienne Gillespie Andrews, WSU chief diversity officer, will serve as a neutral mediator to guide the discussion.
“We still want the executive board to understand that this fight that we’ve been going through is not us seeking out a vendetta but has been us standing up for the voices of each and every student on campus,” Bowker said. “When they close the doors to their meeting, they shut out the campus and all the students that attend here.”
Bowker said there’s an online petition rallying signatures of those who want the executive board meetings to be open, and he encouraged students and community members to read it. “That way we can have numbers and evidence that this issue is not just a concern of The Signpost but a concern of the student body as a whole,” he said.
As of Thursday morning, the petition has more than 75 supporters.
Stephanie Bell Hollist, WSU’s deputy general counsel, said the student groups that are a part of this matter can benefit from their involvement. “It’s an important educational experience for them to work through these issues together,” she said.
The executive board meetings are held every Wednesday from 9–11 p.m. to discuss campus issues and events.
Ezekiel Lee contributed to this article.