Saturday, January 24, 2009

MSSU cuts indicate Sunshine Law violation

When Missouri Southern State University President Dr. Bruce Speck announced the elimination of the Child Development Center and the men's soccer program Thursday, the first question that came to my mind was a simple one.

How in the world could the Board of Governors make this decision without discussing it in an open session? After all, this is a far-reaching decision that adversely affects a number of lives. These people and their supporters deserved an opportunity to have their say in front of the board...and more importantly, they had a right to look the board members in the eyes as the cuts were made.

And why in the world has the traditional media rolled over and not asked this question? As far as I can determine, the local television stations, Joplin Globe and Carthage Press have not asked the question. My understanding is the question will be posed, if it has not been already, by the campus newspaper, The Chart.

It is not hard to predict what university officials' response will be- The deliberations and decision could be made in secrecy because it involved the jobs of identifiable workers. Sorry, but that is not the way the Sunshine Law works. If you are talking about hiring and firing specific workers for cause, or if you are talking about making decisions to eliminate certain workers from a department during hard economic times, those are things that can be discussed behind closed doors.

That does not cover this situation.

Eliminating programs is something that must be discussed and voted on in open session. The decision by a board, which is headed by a lawyer who should know better (and probably does) is shameful.


Hacker said...

Hi Randy,
Interesting post. For my part, I wrote the story in the Carthage Press and didn't ask the question about the sunshine law and the board because I didn't see anything in the university release that indicated this was a board decision. These were administrative decisions by Speck as President and the Board of Governors wasn't a part of them, outside of the general edict they issued last year to cut the budget. I didn't "roll over" on this, I didn't think at the time and I still don't think the board was directly involved in these cuts. As for the changes in compensation for internet and summer classes, Messick informed the Board of those changes at the last meeting and the Board voted to accept Messick's report. I think if someone decided to appeal to the Board, they could and that discussion sure better be held in open session. That was my take on the story, for what it's worth.
John Hacker

Randy said...

You may be right, John, and if you are that presents an even less palatable concept that Bruce Speck can eliminate whatever programs need to be eliminated without any consideration or discussion by the Board of Governors.

Anonymous said...

Don't you guys realize that Speck consulted Dwight Douglas numerous times before announcing these cuts? Speck doesn't go to the bathroom without consulting with his boss first. Douglas is finally realizing his dream of running a college campus.

Hacker said...

I'm sure Speck consulted with Douglas, but consulting with the Board President does not a Sunshine Law violation make. If Speck consults with Douglas and Douglas contacts the other board members for their opinion without notifying the public and holding a meeting, THAT'S a Sunshine Law violation. I'm not defending Speck's actions, and I probably should have asked Speck what role the Board played in these decisions. I'm sorry, I'm human and that question got lost in among the myriad of other questions raised by this and the other actions taken at Southern so far this school year.

Anonymous said...

John, you're naive if you don't think the entire Board of Governors was consulted by Speck or Douglas before these decisions were made.

Anonymous said...

I posted a piece here criticizing the sunshine law. You chose not to let the sun shine on a different opinion. You are a hypocrite pure and simple.