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Michigan Court of Appeals Says University Boards Can Meet In Private

Apr 28, 2016

Michigan Court of Appeals Seal
Credit Courtesy Photo / Michigan Courts

The University of Michigan Board of Regents, and other public university boards, are allowed to meet behind closed doors as long as they’re not taking formal votes, according to a decision just handed down by the Michigan Court of Appeals.


The closed-door so-called “informational” sessions prior to the board’s public meetings were challenged by The Detroit Free Press and The Lansing State Journal.

Attorney Herschel Fink says the newspapers aren’t ready to give up.  He says the Michigan Supreme Court last ruled on the question in 1999.  “So, we’re going to ask the Supreme Court to take a fresh look and we’ll see where that goes,” he said. “We’re hopeful that they will take a fresh look at this issue and decide that Michigan should not be one of just three states in the United States that grant this kind of autonomy to university boards – 47 others don’t.”

A University of Michigan spokesman says the closed-door meetings allow board members to learn about complex and sometimes confidential matters before making decisions.  “It’s a lot of different topics, some of which have research components to them, some of which have competitive components to them,” said Rick Fitzgerald. “It’s just important that there’s no decision-making, and this is mostly information-gathering on the part of the board.”

The newspapers have 45 days to file an appeal.

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— Rick Pluta is the Managing Editor and Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org