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April 20, 1979 - Image 24

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1979-04-20

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Pog 4Friday, prif2b, 1979TheMichigaily
Smichigan DAILY
Eighty-eight Years of Editorial Freedom
420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, Mi. 48109
News Phone: 764-0552
Friday, April 20, 1979.
Edited and managed by students
at the University of Michigan

Public bodies must
keep the peace

Mandatory fee
must remain
F OR THE LAST two years, the Michigan
Student Assembly (MSA) has allocated a
generous amount of funds to various student
organizations to promote a full range of activities.
These subsidies have contributed significantly to
the enrichment of students in a number of issues
ranging from the political situation in Latin
America to the role of students in the tenure selec-
tion process.
But now the Regents have hinted that the man-
datory funding assessment-the money that pays
for the Assembly's budget-may be revoked
because of the election infractions which caused,
the elections to be invalidated. The Board tabled
the issue until today but yesterday's hesitation to
vote on the matter indicates that some Regents
may be considering a move to eliminate the
The assessment must be maintained or some
campus organizations will have to terminate their
operations. Many student groups depend almost
entirely on MSA's financial support and the lack
of an assessment fee would force many groups to
seek other sources for revenue.
Furthermore, during the elections, the students
voted overwhelmingly to pass the mandatory fun-
ding proposal on the ballot-something the Board
must not ignore.
The assessment fee also subsidizes the- course
evaluation project and the Tenants Union. The
course evaluation project gives students impor-
tant information about the various professors and
classes. The Tenants Union counsels students in
landlord-tenant disputes and provides housing in-
The majority of the $2.92 assessment, however,
is sent to Student Legal Services, a unit of
qualified lawyers who have proven to be very
beneficial to students. Many students have simply
been unable to afford legal guidance outside the
University-something which legal services has
been able to achieve.
In another potentially dangerous action tabled
by the Regents yesterday, the Board listened to
Interim President Allan Smith report on what
happened during the Assembly's election process.
Smith said he would like Vice President for Stu-
dent Services Henry Johnson to look into the,
alleged infractions of the elections and decide
whether they should be certified.
But the University has no right to interfere with
the elections process. The Assembly is a student-
run organization and all decisions concerning it
must be made by students-not the Regents. Fur-I
thermore, the Central Student Judiciary (CSJ)
has already invalidated the election, citing the;
numerous irregularities ranging from candidates
operating polling sites to the early closing of some
polling places. If the Regents take
away CSJ's power in this case, they will have
renoved one of the few decisions that students
can make in this University,,

By Michael Arkush
Before the state legislature
passed the 1977 Open Meetings
Act, public bodies in Michigan
were allowed to meet behind
closed doors to make policy
decisions. Although citizens were
invited to most sessions, public
officials had the right to exclude
the public from their
meetings-an option they often
exercised. By meeting privately,
the bodies could proceed quickly
and efficiently with normal
business without listening to the
pleas of disgruntled citizens.
But the Open Meetings Act
outlawed that practice, opening
the doors to the rest of the state.
And despite the past abuse of Ann
Arbor Mayor Louis Belcher and
his Republican-dominated City
Council, the legislation had not
been severely tested until those
eventful Regents meetings last
month. Before those sessions, the
inevitable question about the
Open Meetings Act had not been
answered: What happens when a
certain group of people protest
during the meeting, preventing
the public body from conducting
normal business? Should the
protesters be removed or should
the public body just adjourn,
calling for the meeting to be held
somewhere else.
during the March meetings, more
than 200 students demanding that
the University sell its stock in
corporations doing business in
South Africa's apartheid regime,
disrupte the Board by shouting
anti-apartheid slogans. The
students, many of whom
belonged to the Washtenaw Coun-
ty Coalition Against Apartheid
(WCCAA), asked the Regents to
place the divestiture issue on the
agenda for the April meetings.
But the University's governing
body refusd their request,
arguing that it had adequately
reviewed the divestment question
during ita October meetings.
Unable torhalt the protesters,
the Regents finally left their
regular meeting room without
addressing normal University
business and the divestiture
issue. In order to continue its
business, the Board obtained a
temporary restraining order,
allowing only members of the
press and selected represen-
tatives to attend its newly-
convened meeting on the second
floor of the Administration
But the essential question had
still not been answered. The
restraining order was only tem-
porary, pending thedecision of
Washtenaw County Circuit Court
Judge Ross Campbell. Both
University and WCCAA lawyers
brought their case to court to set-
tle the dispute which threatened
to resurface during the Board's
April meetings.
a prior restraining order from the
judge to enable it to move the
Regents meeting to another place

if demonstrators disrupted again.
WCCAA lawyers argued that the
temporary restraining order had
violated the Open Meetings Act;
and that the business conducted
during the Regents closed session
in March should be declared null
and void.
Judge Campbell finally ruled
that the University's governing
body could move its April
meeting to exclude anyone who
breaches the-peace. As yester-
day's meeting showed, the order
did not have to be implemented.
But more importantly, the
precedent in this case established
by Judge Campbell was an im-
portant judicial step needed to in-
sure that public bodies will be
empowered to conduct their,
business in the future.
Many have argued that Cam-
pbell's action will allow the
Regents to restrict student input
in University decision-making
even more because they will have
the legal power to leave the
meeting when demonstrators in-

opinion, the Regents and any
other public body in Michigan
would be forced to stay in their
meeting place when any group
started demonstrating.
OR, As SOME advocate, the
'Board could forcibly remove the
protesters-a more dangerous
and risky measure.
And if every interest group was
allowed to demonstrate during
public meetings, there would
never be any time to proceed with
normal public business. Public
bodies would be tied down to sit
and hear the views of all groups
until they had finished demon-
strating,.unless the public bodies-
wanted to resort to force.
Some have suggested that only
justified demonstrations should
be allowed to stop the public
bodies from proceeding with
their official agenda. These
people have pointed to the
divestment and tenure questions
as two perfect examples of this
justification, in which the
University has not addressed the

"But then, how do you decide
when a demonstration is
justified? Who decides? And is
it fair to base the right of those
demonstrators on the discretion
of a certain group?"

sist that a' certain issue is ad-
dressed. These same students
assert that the Regents ignore
many of the students' most
pressing needs during their mon-
thly meetings. And if these needs
are not placed on the Board's
agenda, these students argue, the
only alternative left is to disrupt
the body's meetings until it ad-
dresses the particular issue: For
instance, the disruptions in Mar-
ch were the only course of action
available because the Regents
have not adequately reviewed the
divestiturequestion-violating a
promise they made last yesr.
tially right. The Regents' review
of the divestiture issue has been
particularly shallow throughout
the last two years. They have
violated their promise during
March, 1978 that they would
review the issue within a year.
Therefore, the students were
completely justified in disrupting
the Board's meetings because
they had already worked through
normal University channels to
try to get the issue on the March
It is also true that the Regents
have effectively shoved student
interests into the corner in a
variety of aressuch as affir-
mative action, tenure, and
But while these are valid poin-
ts, it is more important to con-
sider the broader implications of
Campbell's ruling, and what
would have happened without it.
If Campbell had not issued his

student concerns or given an
adequate review of the situation.
BUT THEN, HOW do you
decide when a demonstration is
justified? Who decides? And is it
fair to base the right of those
demonstrators on the discretion
of a certain group? Should the
Coalition for Better Housing be
allowed to demonstrate at City
Council meetings until Belcher
addresses the city's housing
problem? Who decides if Belcher
has adequately discussed that
Campbell's ruling was the only
proper action he could take.
While there will be times, such as
the South Africa issue, that the
demonstrations are warranted, it
is more important that public
bodies proceed with their
business or public affairs could
be bottled up indefinitely.
If, however, the divestiture
question is continually avoided
by the Regents, any attempts by
that body to exclude the demon-
strators should be condemned. It
is true that the Regents should
have the legal right to exclude
them, but that legal right should
not be exercised in cases in which
the demonstrators have a valid
cause to protest.
And while again, this will
become a discretionary matter, it
will not affect the legality of the
issue. Public bodies should
always have that right but it
should not always be implemen-
Michael Arkush is the Edi-
torial Director o fthe Daily.

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