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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ASUA flub leads to new meeting access

    Chris Hanson discusses new campus safety plans at the ASUA Senate meeting in the Presidio Room of the Student Union last night.
    Chris Hanson discusses new campus safety plans at the ASUA Senate meeting in the Presidio Room of the Student Union last night.

    Associated Students of the University of Arizona will now have its agenda review meetings open to the public, after acknowledging a mistake in the interpretation of their open-meetings law and complaints of the meeting being closed surfaced.

    All ASUA Senate meetings are supposed to follow the Arizona open-meetings law, which says, in part, “”All meetings of any public body shall be public meetings and all persons so desiring shall be permitted to attend.””

    When a journalism student went to the Senate’s agenda review meeting Sept. 19, he was asked to leave because the meeting was in a closed area.

    Michael Schwartz, a journalism senior, was asked to leave at the start of the meeting. (Full disclosure: Michael Schwartz is an assistant sports editor for the Arizona Daily Wildcat and was covering the meeting for his Reporting Public Affairs class)

    “”They said they were not in executive session and claimed they were just going over the agenda,”” Schwartz said.

    Schwartz left the meeting.

    He was the second student this semester to be questioned at an agenda review meeting.

    Nathan Olivarez-Giles, a senior majoring in journalism and Mexican-American studies and a former Wildcat reporter and photo editor, went to the Sept. 12 agenda review meeting and was allowed in, but only after much debate.

    “”The senate argued I was not allowed to stay at the meeting because it was a private meeting, and my argument back was I was allowed because it was held at a public place, the ASUA office,”” Olivarez-Giles said. “”We compromised that I could come in, but everything that was said during the meeting was off the record.””

    Olivarez-Giles went to the agenda review meeting because he was required to go to the Senate meeting later that evening for his Reporting Public Affairs class.

    Lorena Barraza, a journalism senior, went to the meeting with Olivarez-Giles and was also turned away. Barraza also stayed for the meeting on the terms that whatever said would be off the record.

    “”They wouldn’t let us in because they said they aren’t really a government, they’re more of a club, so their meeting didn’t have to be public,”” she said.

    Jessica Anderson, ASUA executive vice president, said the agenda review meetings are held every Wednesday, one hour before the Senate meeting, and usually last 10 minutes.

    “”The purpose of the agenda meetings is to give the senators time to go over the agenda I submit every Tuesday, so everyone understands it,”” Anderson said. “”We do not discuss attitudes, opinions and especially votes during this meeting.””

    Under the Arizona Revised Statue 38-431.02 the public must be notified of all meetings. If a body wants to hold an executive session, it must notify the public of its intention to do so.

    When Anderson asked Schwartz to leave last week, she was under the impression the meetings were closed to the public.

    “”Last year no one ever came to the agenda review meetings so it was my understanding they were private,”” Anderson said. “”Honestly, it is no big deal to keep them open.””

    ASUA chose to include in its constitution that all Senate meetings shall follow Arizona state law regarding open meetings, said Jason Casares, assistant dean of students and ASUA adviser.

    Over the last week, the ASUA Senate has had a chance to interpret the Arizona open-meeting laws and have determined that all their meetings will be open to the public, unless it is posted that senators are in executive session, he said.

    “”We err on the side of caution, and we don’t want to misinterpret the open-meeting laws,”” Casares said.

    Olivarez-Giles plans to attend the agenda review meeting next week to make sure ASUA follows its new guidelines.

    “”I understand their mistake, they are students just like us, but if their meetings affect me as a student, then I should have a right to go,”” he said.

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