Regents hold closed meeting

by Brian Bakst

After meeting in private Thursday for almost two hours longer than scheduled, Board of Regents members remained tight-lipped on the extent to which tenure was discussed.
Eleven of the 12 regents, three top administrators and four lawyers representing the University discussed legal questions and possible consequences of the union election process and the tenure standoff. Because the meeting was conducted under attorney-client privilege, those who attended are not required to reveal what was discussed.
The meeting came one day after a letter from Regent Jean Keffeler to other board members was leaked to local media. In the letter, Keffeler asked regents to consider withdrawing the controversial tenure suggestions.
Under Minnesota law, regents are permitted to hold private meetings to discuss certain matters with their attorneys. Other instances in which private meetings can be held are labor negotiations and discussions of hospital marketing issues, said Steven Bosacker, the regents’ executive director.
Any policy discussions or enactments must be done publicly, said Marvin Marshak, senior vice president for Academic Affairs. This includes any decision to withdraw the regents’ suggested tenure proposals. “I can assure you, as a layperson, that nothing was decided” at Thursday’s meeting, said Marshak, who was in attendance.
There have been instances where regents have been able to circumvent the open meeting law, however. Last month, regents Thomas Reagan, Patricia Spence and Keffeler met with faculty members and an administrator to discuss tenure in a private meeting. Because there were three or fewer regents present, the meeting could be conducted privately, said Bosacker.
“Does the open-meeting law get invaded by this three-regents-at-a-time thing?” Marshak said. “Sure, it is not contrary to the law, but it is a compromise to the purpose of the law.”
In a press release after Thursday’s meeting, Reagan said the discussions were “fruitful and positive.” He added the board will continue the private discussions Friday.
Reagan also said the board plans to schedule public meetings on “policy matters” in the near future. The regents’ monthly meetings begin Thursday.