Thursday, September 23, 2010

OU student government not posting agendas online or filing meeting notices as required by state law

UOSA Undergraduate Student Congress hasn't been posting meeting notices and agendas on its website or filing meeting notices as required by state law, The Oklahoma Daily reported Thursday.

Until being questioned by a reporter, the Student Congress had not posted meeting agendas since November, the student-run newspaper reported.

The newspaper noted that agendas were being added at press time Wednesday night.

The newspaper also reported that the list of Student Congress representatives was from last school year.

State law requires that public bodies with websites post at least the names of their members. The same statute also requires these public bodies to post their meeting notices and agendas for regularly scheduled meetings. The same information for special and emergency meetings should be posted "[w]hen reasonably possible." (
Okla. Stat. tit. 74, § 3106.2(A))

Student Congress Chairman Brett Stidham told the newspaper that the public body's website is under construction so members can easily update it.

The newspaper also reported that the Student Congress had not filed its meeting notices with the Cleveland County Clerk by the deadline required by the state Open Meeting Act.

Under the statute, public bodies that "exist under the auspices of a state institution of higher education, but a majority of whose members are not members of the institution's governing board, shall give such notice to the county clerk of the county wherein the institution is principally located." (
OKLA. STAT. tit. 25, § 311(A)(6))

Notice of regular meetings must be filed with the county clerk by Dec. 15 of the preceding year. (
OKLA. STAT. tit. 25, § 311(A)(1))

But the Student Congress did not file the notice of its fall meetings until Aug. 10, the newspaper found.

Providing the public with proper notices and agendas for public meetings is at the “very heart” of the Open Meeting Act, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals said in 1981.  (
Matter of Order Declaring Annexation, Etc., 1981 OK CIV APP 57)

Student government associations at public universities are subject to the Open Meeting Act if they are sub-entities of a board of higher education and have actual or de facto decision-making authority, according to a 1979 state Attorney General Opinion. (
1979 OK AG 134, ¶ 3)

Speaking specifically about Oklahoma State University’s Student Government and Residence Halls associations, the opinion stated:

These two bodies have the authority to make decisions concerning the student population of the University from which no student may be exempted and also make decisions concerning the dispersement [sic] of funds collected.
With that power, it should be added, comes a responsibility to abide by both the letter and spirit of the law whose purpose is “to encourage and facilitate an informed citizenry’s understanding of the governmental processes and governmental problems." (OKLA. STAT. tit. 25, § 302)

The citizenry even includes college students wanting to know what their student government is doing.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

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