Butler University Student Newspaper Criticizes Faculty Senate for Approving Closed-Door Meetings

The Butler University Faculty Senate has approved the option of holding future closed-door meetings, in part to keep The Butler Collegian from reporting on them.  The campus newspaper calls the move “a blow to transparency that possibly could remove important faculty and student interaction.”

The measure– confirmed in a vote last month by an overwhelming majority– enables Butler faculty senators to limit access for certain sessions to only those they choose to invite.  Apparently, one impetus for the decision is emboldening junior faculty to speak on controversial issues without fear of administrators overhearing.

Yet, according to a report in the Collegian, the approved addition to the senate bylaw makes no specific mention of administrators.  Instead, as written, it would keep anyone and everyone other than special invitees out of the room– including the senators’ faculty colleagues, students, and the campus newspaper.

Specifically, the Collegian notes, “Vice Chair Doug Spaniol . . . said a reason for adding the amendment was to keep the Butler Collegian from covering some discussions.”

In an editorial response, the paper rejected the new bylaw as a see-through ploy for secrecy and decision-making without accountability.  As it confirms toward the close:

We’re concerned a meeting’s closure would come out of a lack of willingness from some senators to stand behind their comments. Regardless of a faculty member’s tenure status, these individuals should take their role on the senate seriously enough to represent their constituents openly in all situations, and not be afraid of the university community knowing about it. . . . In an academic environment, openness and dialogue should be the norm. It’s during the discussion on sensitive and important matters when the most people should be included, not just a select few.

My take: Sunlight is almost always the best disinfectant.  Seriously, what decisions do Butler faculty senators expect to be debating and making in the future that should not be open to press and public scrutiny?  At most universities, the faculty senate is comprised of a powerful set of voices.  Reducing those voices to vague meeting minutes, offering decisions without explanations, and silencing critiques are disservices to those you claim to represent.

We teach students about the power of openness, vibrant discussion, the First Amendment, and standing behind one’s words.  Live up to the lessons.  Keep meetings open!

2 Responses to “Butler University Student Newspaper Criticizes Faculty Senate for Approving Closed-Door Meetings”
  1. Thanks for the coverage! We appreciate your commitment to the student press.
    -Hayleigh Colombo, editor in chief
    The Butler Collegian

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Butler University Student Newspaper Criticizes Faculty Senate for Approving Closed-Door Meetings […]