The University of Washington Board of Regents gamed the state’s open-meetings law as it picked a new president.
YES, the University of Washington is one of the nation’s crown jewels of higher education. But that reputation does not justify a smug arrogance by its governing board to trump the rules.
The Board of Regents is obligated by the state Open Public Meetings Act to conduct its business before the citizens and taxpayers of the state. That includes publicly vetting and selecting the person to fill the presidency.
Times reporter Lewis Kamb has used requests for information via the state’s Public Records Act to reveal a pattern of coyness and evasion by the board to avoid required transparency.
The selection of Ana Mari Cauce to lead the university was apparently made well before the board’s pantomime announcing its choice and voting.”
The selection of Ana Mari Cauce to lead the university was apparently made well before the board’s pantomime announcing its choice and voting. Even the UW public-relations staff was in on the mystical clairvoyance with already prepared, quote-filled news releases about the board’s selection.
This is not a singular act of contempt for the law. Kamb reported a King County judge ruled last April that UW regents violated the Open Public Meetings Act on 24 separate occasions from 2012 to 2014 — breaking the law as they broke bread at the UW president’s home.
The public’s right to know who was on the candidate short list and how the regents deliberated to narrow the field is basic to a transparent, public process.
Indeed, the regents represent the interests of the public, as well as the university, faculty and students. Expecting the regents to obey the law does not denigrate their choice of President Cauce.
Meanwhile, Washington State University is tripping down the same path, with a closed panel narrowing a secret list of finalists to be university president.
UW and WSU should take some remedial instruction from the The Seattle College District Board of Trustees, which has extended a public invitation to meet with the three finalists for the chancellor position.
A schedule of multiple forums for introductions and conversation has been published, along with a link to the candidates’ biographies.