Since the start of the Direction Package Advisory Board meetings in November, the group has questioned the admittance of the press at those meetings, though they are open to the public. In short, the openness of these meetings is of the utmost importance for the community’s involvement in decisions about the future of this university.
From the Nov. 11 issue of the Free Press, it was reported that nearly two hours of the first meeting were spent discussing whether or not the press should be allowed to attend. Members were concerned about the possibility of negative press and that some members might feel hesitant to express their ideas and opinions in front of the press.
From the notes on the Nov. 15 meeting (that can be found on the Direction Package website), it was stated that “[members of the board] spoke with UMS legal counsel about the question of open meetings and whether or not the press can be allowed at the meetings,” and that a presentation on that material is ready when there’s time. Many members of the board have maintained that transparency throughout this process is paramount and that in order to ensure that the process is transparent, press attendance should not be a question. In fact, according to Maine Public Meeting laws, there isn’t even a legal question involved––the group has no authority or legitimate reason to hold these meetings privately (ch.13 §403 and §405).
We understand the sensitivity of the university community during this tumultuous time, and it is not in our best interest or anyone else’s at this institution, that we shape any narrative for the benefit of any group or individual, but it’s not time to argue about who gets through the doors. The bottom line is that press access at these meetings shouldn’t distract us from the important business we’re faced with––saving the university.
When we asked about what can be done to avoid making the $11.9 million shortfall estimation a reality, Chief Financial Dick Campbell responded that the Directional Package work and the advisory board are the best answer.
This institution exists to serve students and to be a resource for the people of Maine. Behind closed doors, no one is going to be held accountable to the people they are appointed to represent in their task: the public of Maine.