Reporters covering the choice of sole finalist Eric Kaler as the University of Minnesota’s next president have asked regents repeatedly about potential public concern over both the speed of the process and the lack of an alternative candidate.
The regents’ answer, boiled down: You’ll just have to trust us. We couldn’t do it any other way.
Looks like the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists isn’t buying it.
Here’s a press release I’ve just received:
Minnesota SPJ denounces University of Minnesota Regents lack of transparency
The University of Minnesota’s hiring of Eric Kaler as president today appears to be a positive step for the institution’s governance. Unfortunately, the fact he is being introduced to the public only after a closed door process designed to circumvent state law is a disappointing way to get to this point.
The moment the Regents named Kaler the lone finalist it became evident the university had choreographed a delicate dance to keep a significant amount of information secret from the public.
The Open Meetings Law exists to allow Minnesotans to hold their publicly supported entities accountable. The citizens demand this transparency and university officials’ insistence that they are above the law is a betrayal of the public’s trust.
“We hoped university officials would have gotten the message after the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected their argument that the Open Meetings Law didn’t apply to them,” said state SPJ President Sarah Bauer. “Instead they seem even more determined to try and outwit the law the public holds dear.”
It’s time for University of Minnesota officials to understand the goals of the institution are not separate from the goals of the public. Rather than working to outflank its citizens, the university should embrace its public responsibility and set the right example for Minnesota and the nation.