Champaign, IL. (ECWd) -
While looking the the University of Illinois' website to determine when and where their meetings were being held, I came across their public speaking policy...and it's a doozy...
According the the Board of Trustees, they "have developed procedures in compliance with the Illinois Open Meetings Act by which interested groups and individuals may make presentations in person at meetings of the Board." Well, I'll be darned, we should just take it for granted that that are in compliance with the OMA - because they said so.
Whoah Nelly! Not so fast! This old hayseed don't think so!
The very next sentence violates the OMA: "A request to speak during the public comment portion of a Board meeting must be submitted to the Secretary of the Board of Trustees no later than 8 a.m. three business days prior to the scheduled meeting."
They further violate the act in their procedures for addressing the board (see the underlined parts):
Requests to address the Board: Requests to appear before the Board to make comments to or ask questions of the Board must be received by the Secretary in writing no later than three business days before the Board meeting at which the individual wishes to speak. The Secretary will review this request and notify the person making the request whether he/she may give public comment at the next meeting. The request should set out clearly the nature of the subject matter to be presented and must relate to matters within the jurisdiction of the Board of Trustees. In making a request to appear before the Board, individuals must give their names and any relevant title or affiliation. Substitute speakers will not be permitted.
- They cannot required advanced notice
- They cannot determine "whether" they will "allow" you to speak - public comment is a statutory right that this board does not possess the authority to take away
- They cannot demand "setting out the clear nature" of public comments prior to a meeting - or even demand your name, title, or affiliation
Next, they claim that: "In addition, preference will be given to subject matters that relate to the agenda for the relevant Board meeting and to avoid repetitiveness." I'm sorry, but I did not see that anywhere in the Open Meetings Act - they cannot give preference for any reason.
Finally, they state that: "the Board will not hear presentations or entertain questions on the following topics: issues under negotiation as part of the University's collective bargaining process; statements concerning the private activities, lifestyles, or beliefs of individuals employed by or associated with the University; grievances of individual students or employees; proposals or bids for contracts; or litigation involving the University."
That is called content based censorship and is a violation of every person's first amendment rights.
So now that they have significantly chilled the rights of those that might have otherwise chose to address the Board of Trustees, I can only hope that they will act swiftly to correct this and to ensure their policy on public comments complies with the Open Meetings Act.
On a final note, maybe their Graduate School of Library and Information Science "GSLIS" will come to my aid for defending the first amendment rights of everyone wishing to address this board....(click here for previous article).