Last semester on Oct. 7, I attended and spoke at a West Chester University Council of Trustees meeting on zoom to give a public comment. For reference, each of the current 14 Universities within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) have a council of trustees which has certain duties and responsibilities regarding their university. For instance, they make recommendations regarding the appointment or dismal of the university president. Additionally, they review and approve recommendations for charges for tuition, the operating budget or the policies and procedures regarding the use of campus facilities or property.
At the meeting I attended on Zoom, I was surprised to see the meeting being recorded as I had never seen a recording of a Council of Trustees meeting before. I am aware that at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) level they record and upload their Board of Governors meeting so I thought maybe it was being posted somewhere for the public to see. I scoured the West Chester University Website, and I couldn’t find any such recording. A recording to a public meeting should be public, at least most people would think that makes sense.
So, I decided to call someone in the president’s office to inquire if that recording could or would be released to the public. I was told that wasn’t the policy, which surprised me after the fact that it was being recorded. The recording, I was told, was for the ease of making minutes of the meeting. After getting off the phone, within the next day or so I decided to email the person I spoke with and reiterated some of what I said. I noted that it would likely be one additional step to take that recording and make the meeting publicly available. Also, I pointed out that this is an accessibility issue. Two days later, I got an email stating they would be posting the recording. I reached back out at the end of the following week as it wasn’t up and asked a couple additional questions.
Come the Monday of the next week, I was told the Council of Trustees meeting was on the website and that going forward they would post the recorded meetings.
Surprisingly to me, my repeated attempts to get the recordings of these meetings to be publicly available did just that. I wanted to put this out here for a few reasons. Hopefully, a student is reading this to see that there are times where you can make change that no matter how small that hopefully could have an impact in the future. I also wanted to document this to show that policy doesn’t change itself. Many times, at a university it takes students pointing out the little things or the big things and making change happen. I encourage students to act and regardless of however big or small, know that your voice matters.
Nick Marcil is a second-year Higher Education Policy & Student Affairs Graduate Student. NM871511@wcupa.edu