Jr. College Trustees’ Association Offers Advice on Sharing Meetings with Non-Attending Public

Association of Community College Trustees holds conventions in big cites which McHenry County College Trustees attend.

The MCC Board listens to CFO Bob Tenuta.

McHenry County College Board meetings were once televised to a remote location, but not recorded.

It also answers questions like

My board is considering televising our meetings- what should we take into account before making this decision?

Before taking a look at parts of the answer, it might be appropriate to remember that community colleges are public government bodies, supposedly responsible to voters and taxpayers.

Here are some parts of the answer:

Broadcasting board meetings has advantages and drawbacks. In the absence of state laws that require broadcasting, the board should carefully consider the pros and cons of broadcasting meetings before making a voluntary commitment.

The Pros of Broadcasting

On the positive side, the broadcasting of meetings can increase transparency and make the business of the board more accessible to those who are unable to attend meetings. Not everyone has the luxury or flexibility to attend meetings during the day or evening….

Cons and Considerations

The board should remember that there is a certain level of trust, even dignity, inherent within traditional board meetings. Broadcasting meetings can potentially alter this general atmosphere and cause changes in behavior. A board meeting is a business meeting of the board meant to carry out the governing body’s fiduciary and stewardship responsibilities. There is sanctity to the proceedings, and trustees should strive to preserve this spirit of respect, informative debate, and trust during meetings which are broadcast.The risk of damaging this atmosphere is enough to dissuade many boards and presidents from broadcasting….

College of DuPage (Illinois) President Robert Breuder, for example, shared that “After 34 years as President, I would lean in favor of not broadcasting board meetings,” in part because “The challenging behavior exhibited by some meeting participants can be exacerbated by broadcasting.”

The trade association then goes on to warn of “intimidation and grandstanding by trustees, staff, or even members of the community.”

Then there is this warning:

“While broadcasting meetings can potentially showcase the positive work of the college and the board, they also could cause problems if false claims are made during meetings or if comments are taken out of context.

“Footage from a board meeting can ‘go viral’ on the internet, or the board can appear to be a ‘rubber stamp’ if there is no background provided to viewers on the board’s actions.

“The board should proactively address these potential pitfalls by establishing new training for board members and college staff.

“This training should cover how to handle controversial statements made by trustees, staff, or members of the public during a meeting which is broadcast and review board meeting protocols and procedures to ensure that meetings can be understood by viewers unacquainted with the board’s practices.”

And, finally, there are these concluding remarks:

“In making the decision whether to broadcast board meetings, the board should remain focused on community expectations.

“It must ask itself whether its broadcast meetings would meet these expectations and ultimately benefit the local community, or whether the risk of broadcasting is greater than the potential benefits.

“By doing so, the board can make an informed decision on whether broadcasting its meetings is the right step for the college.”

There does seem to be more emphasis on the “cons” than the “pros.”


Comments

Jr. College Trustees’ Association Offers Advice on Sharing Meetings with Non-Attending Public — 8 Comments

  1. The current Attorney General has spent literally millions of taxpayer dollars attempting to thwart the recording of illegal police activity.

    We now have another governor under the cloud of potentially being removed from office for illegal activity.

    A very bad attitude has developed in the political arena of Illinois – many elected officials believe they are above the law and if they get caught engaging in illegal meetings or some other illegal activity someone in the judicial system will bail them out or an ‘ethics’ board will turn a blind eye.

    With the advent of NSA spying and the interminable increase of video everywhere, tape and broadcast the damn meetings!!

    Taxpayers should have the ability to view all public meetings.

    Even negotiations for labor contracts should be broadcast live.

    The only thing that should remain ‘secret’ in the public realm is bidding for contracts and voting.

  2. Everyone should note that it was Chris Jenner who took the lead on improving transparency at MCC by demanding that all meetings be televised, archived to citizens could review prior meetings and who demanded that all documents be in searchable PDF form, not images that couldn’t be searched, and that all documents for meetings be posted BEFORE the meetings, so citizens could see all the materials that board members saw.

    Chris Jenner has been a leader in fighting the Community College organization’s anti-taxpayer agenda.

    So has Tom Wilbeck, and so has Ron Parrish.

    They have fully supported this same pro-taxpayer, pro-transparency agenda.

    But in fairness, this is an issue very dear to Chris Jenner’s heart, and he has been out front and a leader on it, overcoming great objections from the administration and the Old Board Three.

  3. Cal,

    The only Jr. college is in Joliet. All others are community colleges.
    Please correct this. Thanks.

  4. When they act this way, they deserve to be called “junior colleges.”

    They are taxpayer-financed entities and should be transparent.

    What is in this article appears to discourage transparency…just as did McHenry County College, which deliberately withheld that 10,000 students and employee identifying information was compromised.

    You will notice that McHenry County College doesn’t have “junior” or “community” in its name.

    That was a deliberate decision on the part of the first board on which my father served.

  5. My apologies to Tom Wilbeck. Chris Jenner has been a champion of transparency at MCC and done some great things, but broadcasting the meetings was actually an idea Tom Wilbeck championed and accomplished.

    My mistake.

    So, thank you, Tom, for being an effective leader.

    Tom is also the fellow who won’t take “No” for an answer when he asks the MCC administration for answers to common sense questions like, how many classes only have a few students?

    He had to ask three times before they finally gave him the data, and even then it took hours of work to transform the data he got into a useful format.

    And the answer is: almost 30% of MCC’s classes have nine students or fewer!

    Many of them have only three or four students!

    So not only are the classrooms being used less than half the school day, on average, but almost a third of the classes have only a handful of students.

    Thank you, Tom, for persevering.

  6. No TV here.

    I suppose televised could mean more than just actual televisions, though; especially since so many are now unplugged.

    Cal, you come up with so many interesting tidbits.

    Love your anecdotes.

  7. While I agree that televised meetings might encourage grandstanding, transparency could be accomplished with a court reporter, published online at the already existing website.

    Think outside the box people!

    As for the classes with such a small size, consider the overly large ones that must be taught to offset the average.

    It’s no wonder that required courses (like math) are packed with desks to accommodate 30 students in a room designed to accommodate many less.

    Perhaps if employees of the college were required to work under those conditions, there would be room for more students – just how much “office space” is there at MCC (ie square footage)?

  8. Plenty of school districts, municipalities, and other governmental bodies in Illinois already broadcast or videotape board meetings and post them indefinitely on their website.

    However most community colleges have been resisting this transparency.

    The technology exists and should be used for just about every government body to broadcast or videotape board meetings and post them indefinitely on their website.
    There was mention of COD in the above article.

    College of Dupage (COD) has resisted transparency of its board meetings.

    A videotape of its most recent board meeting appears on its website, but it is very poor quality in that skipping forward or backward results in indecipherable overlapping audio, and apparently there is no archive of previous meetings.

    Not only board meetings should be broadcast or videotaped, but board committee meetings should also be broadcast or videotaped and indefinitely archived.

    Any official board business should be broadcast or videotaped and indefinitely archived.

    At most of these taxing district board meetings, any member of the public is only allowed to speak for 3 minutes before or after the meeting.

    But the board is allowed to comment for an indefinite amount of time about what the 3 minute public speaker said.

    Just another level of hypocrisy that occurs at government board meetings.

    There is no good reason for MCC’s refusal to broadcast or videotape board meetings and indefinitely post them on their website.

    None.

    Basically their excuses all revolve around image.

    It’s their image they are really worried about.

    More than transparency.

    And that’s the case with far too government boards and administrations.

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