The Daily Evergreen

WSU Board of Regents closes off public

While an open meeting is required, the Board will only allow call-ins for outsiders to hear discussion.

WSU+Board+of+Regents+members+Brett+Blankenship%2C+left%2C+Ron+Sims+and+Alyssa+Norris+listen+to+a+discussion+during+the+Regents+meeting+on+Sept.+21+on+the+WSU+Pullman+campus.+They+will+meet+in+Woodinville+on+Thursday+and+Friday.
WSU Board of Regents members Brett Blankenship, left, Ron Sims and Alyssa Norris listen to a discussion during the Regents meeting on Sept. 21 on the WSU Pullman campus. They will meet in Woodinville on Thursday and Friday.

WSU Board of Regents members Brett Blankenship, left, Ron Sims and Alyssa Norris listen to a discussion during the Regents meeting on Sept. 21 on the WSU Pullman campus. They will meet in Woodinville on Thursday and Friday.

Michael Linder | Daily Evergreen File

Michael Linder | Daily Evergreen File

WSU Board of Regents members Brett Blankenship, left, Ron Sims and Alyssa Norris listen to a discussion during the Regents meeting on Sept. 21 on the WSU Pullman campus. They will meet in Woodinville on Thursday and Friday.

EDITORIAL BOARD, The Daily Evergreen

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The WSU Board of Regents will hold their last regular meeting of the 2018 fiscal year this week where they will address one of the most pressing issues facing the university in the form of the over $60 million deficit facing the athletics department.

However, they have decided to hold this important meeting in Woodinville, almost 300 miles away from Pullman and the only way the public can access this meeting is through a conference call Friday.

The so-called “retreat,” held at the Manor House at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery owned by Regents Chair Theodor Baseler, only offers media availability for a scheduled one hour and 45 minutes and the entirety of the Friday meeting is scheduled to last eight hours.

While the board is entrusted with making key decisions on behalf of the students, staff, faculty and university community members at-large, it appears the group has decided that a public meeting doesn’t mean making it easily accessible to the general population and the students they represent.

This decision comes in clear opposition of the purpose of the open meeting laws in the state.

Other than being a horrible way to lead by example, this choice by the Regents comes in complete contrast to the multiple statements made by university administration touting their commitment to transparency.

WSU faithful should be used to this perceived nonchalant approach to convening near the Pullman campus as the board will only hold a single meeting in Pullman this year, a feat which will be repeated again next year with two “retreat” locations yet to be determined for the 2019 schedule.

In 2017, three meetings were to be held in Pullman, but one was cancelled and another was a special meeting held via teleconference.

If the regents want to show they truly have the best interest of the members of the WSU community at heart, they need to begin holding meetings regularly near the heart of the population most greatly affected by their decisions.

While Seattle, Spokane or Tri-Cities may seem like more attractive destinations for these meetings due to their more urban or metropolitan settings, the Regents must take in to consideration who will be affected by the choices made at these events.

While the group may technically be satisfying their duties as state officials to Washington’s open meetings laws, the board should not try to skate by in such a way. Transparency should be expected by all state officials and these university trustees should be held to the same standard, especially in the middle of an athletics budget crisis and university wide spending cuts.

The Evergreen would have attended this meeting, even with our abbreviated summer staff, if it had been in Pullman or even on this side of the Cascade Mountains.

It seems ridiculous to have to “attend” a public meeting, especially one where a decision will be made on a projected $67 million budget deficit that could affect the university for years to come, by a conference call.

If the Regents want to be transparent, they should hold the majority of their meetings on the WSU campus and not in a winery on the other side of the state.

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WSU Board of Regents closes off public