Author Topic: UND pres. Kupchella argues for less openness  (Read 1731 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Sal Atticum

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 7121
  • Karma: 38
  • Gender: Male
    • Campus Dakota
UND pres. Kupchella argues for less openness
« on: April 09, 2008, 08:58:38 AM »
He makes an interesting case, but I would argue that people should stand up for what they believe in, regardless of whether someone is watching or not.  I'm sick of people hiding behind the mask of anonymity just so they can say mean things.  Those things may be true and, if so, people should have the right to say them.  I do think he's on the right track with the employee evaluations--openness in that regard may be a little much, but I think he's lumping two distinct issues together that should not be lumped.

VIEWPOINT: Make open-records laws just a little less open
By Charles Kupchella, Grand Forks Herald
Published Wednesday, April 09, 2008
GRAND FORKS — Much has been made of North Dakota’s open meetings and open records laws in conjunction with UND’s presidential search. I will say, at the outset, that I think the search yielded a fine president-designate for UND. Bob Kelley has solid leadership experience and should be a fine leader for our university.

That said, I believe our open records and meetings laws served to curtail the number of candidates. These laws in no small way were responsible for the fact that only one candidate was presented to the State Board of Higher Education and were thus responsible for some of the negative “stuff” that went on at the conclusion of the search.

The open records and open meetings laws worked against the public interest in North Dakota in this particular case in several fundamental ways.

First of all, any would-be candidate who happened to be a sitting president would have been loathe to submit his or her name and endure the inevitable criticism “back home” with what should and could have been a 1 in 100 chance of ultimately being selected. Most presidents would find these odds not worth it. The result was no sitting presidents in the pool and relatively few provosts.

A search for the president of a university of UND’s stature should have produced more than 100 expressions of interest, and among these should have been at least a dozen sitting presidents.

The second big hit that resulted from the openness of our open records law and regular publication of applicant names and other information as applications were received is that potential candidates looking in from the outside would have seen immediately that there were four internal candidates. It would have appeared to potential external candidates that the search would likely end up as an “inside job” — another flag warding off sitting presidents and other external candidates.

Search committee meetings with — and about — candidates in the early and intermediate stages of a search, with reporters listening in for sound bites and cameras rolling, are stifled. Questions that should be asked are not asked. Opinions that should be voiced are not voiced, and the process is corrupted.

Faculty and staff in such circumstances would be understandably reluctant to say anything negative about a candidate to whom they currently report or about one who could well end up being appointed.

The point to these downsides is that openness to what happens is an illusion, because openness in the extreme changes what happens — and not for the better.

Openness is generally a good thing. Too much of any good thing, however, is bad.

Given the downsides, is there really a significant public interest in knowing all of the candidates early in a search when there may be 80 to 100 candidates? I don’t think so. North Dakota is one of a small number of states in which university officials are required to disclose all names and documents as soon as applications are filed. Likewise, North Dakota is among a small minority of states that do not permit at least some closed search committee meetings early in the search process.

If a group of good people are selected to serve on a search committee and they have to operate in plain sight of one another, this is enough to make sure the search will be conducted in accordance with fairness and the law.

Presidential and other searches are not the only problem. North Dakota’s open records laws subvert the public interest in other ways as well.

In North Dakota, unlike in many other states, even personnel records and performance reviews are open to the public. Anyone can ask for, and get, a public employee’s personnel file. Anyone doing a personnel evaluation, knowing that what he or she writes could become public — even without the permission of the individual being evaluated — would tend to soften the evaluation. This, in turn, prevents a forthright paper trail from being laid down in those rare cases that ultimately and legitimately lead to the termination of an employee.

A consequence is that relatively straightforward employment issues too often end up in court.

Personnel evaluations should be exempt from the open records law, as is the case in most states. Why not treat personnel records the same way we treat health and other information protected by privacy laws?

It is beyond irrational that because of federal privacy laws, we cannot give student grade records to parents without the student’s permission, but in North Dakota we must give performance review information to anyone off the street.

While openness is generally a good thing, our open records and open meetings laws go too far. We should make them more rational.

Kupchella is the president of UND.

Offline JakeJZG

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 301
  • Karma: 17
    • tl;dr
Re: UND pres. Kupchella argues for less openness
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2008, 08:33:14 PM »
William Rogers, former secretary of state to Nixon, once stated that “the public should view excessive secrecy among government officials as parents view sudden quiet where youngsters are playing. It is a sign of trouble.”

Any level of openness will result negative consequences.

I would put forth that these negative consequences in the name of openness are far more preferable to those in the name of secrecy. 

I would accept these negative consequences.

Besides, he argues an fairly unprovable theoretical case in the name of much less governmental transparency to their constituents. 
« Last Edit: May 11, 2008, 08:42:40 PM by JakeJZG »
Use Windows?  Want to know a better way?
Come join the East Dakota Linux Users Group!


With Quick-Reply you can write a post when viewing a topic without loading a new page. You can still use bulletin board code and smileys as you would in a normal post.

Name: Email:
Type the letters shown in the picture
Listen to the letters / Request another image
Type the letters shown in the picture:
What color is an apple, it starts with an r?:
What is 5 plus 5?:
Which Dakota has the city of Fargo: