Two schools shut doors to meetings

Indiana, Auburn allow committees to meet in confidential sessions

A wall of silence surrounds an Indiana commission chosen to develop guidelines for acceptable behavior for all students and faculty in the school's athletic department.

The committee members, appointed by university President Myles Brand after sanctions were imposed against Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight for misconduct, held their first closed meeting in May with no prior notice to the public and no comments afterward regarding what took place inside.

It appears that the commission's code of conduct, once decided, will be all the information that is released thanks to what Indiana Daily Student editor John Silver called a loophole in Indiana's open-meetings laws.

"The reason they can close [the meetings] to the public is that the commission members were appointed by the president -- not an elected/appointed governing body -- and not the board of trustees," Silver said. "If they were appointed directly by the trustees they would have a difficult time closing them."

Meetings by schools' governing bodies, such as the board of trustees, are required to be open to the public in Alabama, but at Auburn University, the board holds a closed executive session prior to each regular monthly meeting.

Incoming Auburn Plainsman editor Rachel Davis said that during regular board meetings, issues that should require discussion and debate are often passed over quickly by the trustees.

"A decision to merge the departments of journalism and communication was discussed for less than 10 minutes, and no one was allowed to speak from the floor," Davis said. "I believe the decision was already made. This lack of discussion time during meetings only leaves us to suspect that the board is breaking the law by meeting in secretive sessions."

Davis said the Plainsman plans to pursue the issue further this fall.

Fall 2000, reports