When University of Wisconsin-Madison officials embarked on developing a new personnel system to govern the work lives of more than 15,000 people across campus in the wake of the end of collective bargaining rights, those taking the lead on the project promised it would be “transparent and collaborative.”
But an organization that advocates for the rights of faculty and academic staff at the university argues the process has fallen well short of that ideal, pointing out that meetings of the Advisory Committee to the Human Resources (HR) Design Project have -- for purposes of the state’s open meetings law -- been closed.
“We not only consider the imposition of the closed-meeting policy to be unlawful, but it creates a tremendous level of mistrust,” says David Ahrens, a member of the Wisconsin University Union.
After efforts to convince UW-Madison officials that these meetings should be open faltered, the Wisconsin University Union mailed a petition to J.B. Van Hollen, Wisconsin's attorney general. The document asks Van Hollen to determine whether these get-togethers -- plus those of 11 campus work teams examining various details of this initiative -- should be open under the state’s open meetings law.
Gary Sandefur, the dean of the College of Letters and Science, who chairs the Advisory Committee, says the body decided to close its meetings for two main reasons after the university’s office of legal services advised that the state’s open meetings law applies to gatherings of governmental bodies -- and that this committee doesn’t meet the definition of such a group.