COLUMN: If I have to attend class in-person, Board of Trustees should open meetings

This week, for the second time this semester, the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees is meeting in-person in the Bovee University Center.

I'm not allowed to attend the meeting. Neither are you. This is the ninth time the board has broadcast meetings in a closed setting since April 2020.

The Central Michigan University Board of Trustees meet in-person for committee meetings while being live-streamed to members of the community on Sept. 22.

Yes, we can watch from a far, but that is not the same experience. It's the same as watching United States Congress make decisions, and feels just as removed.

Although we are not allowed to sit in on board meetings, we are expected to attend in-person classes. 

If I have to go to my classes in-person, I should be allowed to go to the board of trustee meetings in person.

I understand the idea of staying safe. I have no problem following COVID-19 guidelines. However, there has to be a way to allow an in-person audience into these meetings. 

In fact, every other week the Academic Senate meets in-person. About 100 people attend Student Government Association meetings weekly.

Earlier this year, I went to the SGA meeting where Campus Dining service issues were discussed. The attendance rate was high – at least 200 people. In order to attend, we all had to be masked, provide our Global ID and show green checks on the health screen app – proving we had filled out the screening questions and are vaccinated or have received a weekly test. 

I think this is a great way to allow myself, other students, faculty, staff and community members the ability to sit in on these meetings in-person, while keeping people safe.

These meetings are important. These meetings are one of the few times each semester that people have the opportunity to address trustees and watch them do business.

Not allowing people to attend in person is hindering the public's ability to share opinions and observe how the board deliberates.

There has never been open access to address trustees at meetings. Even when it comes to public comment, everyone who speaks has to be pre-approved. In these virtual meetings, someone, who is not the author, reading a submitted letter in a monotone voice is not the same as someone standing up and using their own voice to express their concerns. 

As a journalist who attends post-meeting press conferences, I can confirm that it is much more difficult to interview President Bob Davies and Trustee Chair Richard Studley via a WebEx conference phone call rather asking them questions in-person.

In fact, I think it's ridiculous.

I am on the same campus as those leaders – a six minute walk from my desk to their meeting room – and I don't even have the option of interviewing them face to face? 

The university has faced many controversies this semester. From our ongoing enrollment decline to the resignations of several senior level administrators, it's understandable if the trustees and administration are reluctant to meet with people.  

Trustees, you work for us. We, the taxpayers of Michigan, deserve to be able to attend these meetings.

Trustees are appointed by the governor of Michigan to serve constituents and work for the betterment of the campus community. 

How is hiding from the public serving anyone?

If the administration wants CMU's classrooms, football games and other activities to be "back to normal," let's be back to normal with how meetings are conducted, too. 

I am tired of the double standards constantly perpetuated by this administration. 

While the trustees sit in their closed, maskless meeting, I will be in the Central Michigan Life office with my co-workers watching the meeting and wearing a mask per CMU protocol.

On Nov. 5, Studley tweeted "More closed door meetings!? This is not what voters were promised" in regards to a redistricting commission meeting that was closed to the public. Meanwhile, we aren't allowed into the board of trustees meetings that he leads.

Enough is enough. 

To Davies and Studley: My New Years Resolution for you is to stop this pattern of double standards. Continue to broadcast these meetings for those who are unavailable to attend. Archive videos of the meetings online so they can be viewed later. 

But at the next meeting, those watching from home should see an audience in the footage – An audience made up of those who care about this university and want to watch important decisions being made in person, front and center.

Chair Studley, please give us the open meetings that even you are asking for. Just like the Golden Rule, treat others how you want to be treated.