Thursday, February 17, 2011

Can the Legislature Make the U Come Clean?

The Legislature needs to take leadership and pick up its reins of oversight as to whether or not the U of M violated the Minnesota Open Meeting Law(OML) in the selection of Eric Kaler as the new President.  No other party or institution other than the Legislature in an open forum can get to the bottom of what happened.  The accusations of secret meetings, manipulation of the OML to do the public business which should be in public, but is done in private, and other public statements by open government advocates to students about the process has created a cloud over the selection of Eric Kaler.  A recent report by Minnesota Public Radio illustrates this.

The Legislature through the respective bodies such as Higher Ed Committees, chaired by Senator Michelle Fischbach and Representative Bud Nornes, or State Government Innovation and Veterans Committee chaired by Senator Mike Parry and House Government Operations and Elections, whose Chairperson is Joyce Peppin could hold, jointly or by themselves the oversight hearing.

Oversight which goes hand in hand with accountability can be used in this instance to see if there was poor administration of the U of M Presidential Selection process as it relates to the public.  Inform the public and to ensure that the choosing of our new President in the way it was done reflects the public interest.  To guarantee that the University complied with our state's open government laws.

Questions as to who, what, where, when, and why can and should be answered in the public arena.  Questions for example:
1. Who were the Regents who participated in the three 1 hour sessions in a row to interview Mr. Kaler?
2. Was the set up of three 1 hour sessions to avoid the Open Meeting Law?
3. What questions were asked by the Regents to Mr. Kaler in these private meetings?  What were the answers?
4. Where and when were the meetings, was it in a public place where the public could attend?
5. Why did the U make the kinds of decisions it did as reported in various media reports?

There needs to be a healthy, trustworthy, and transparent process for selecting the University President.  It is essential the people of Minnesota have confidence in one of its premier institutions, the University of Minnesota.

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