LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Ed McBroom has introduced two proposed constitutional amendments regarding Michigan’s 15 public universities. One is to convert the elected boards of three of them to appointed boards as all the others do. The second resolution seeks to subject all the boards to the state’s Open Meetings Act.
“Both of these measures are about making our universities function better and to be more transparent,” said McBroom, R-Waucedah Township. “This would provide a better system that encourages more highly qualified people to volunteer to serve and subjects them to higher levels of scrutiny through the governor’s vetting process and the advice and consent process of the Senate.”
Currently, the Michigan Constitution calls for direct statewide elections only for members of three governing boards: Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and the University of Michigan. The boards of the other 12 public universities are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the state Senate.
“Determining who serves on these boards should be about talent and qualifications — not fame, money, or political party,” McBroom said. “The current system is problematic, with political parties picking the candidates at conventions and few of the candidates making their cases to all voters — leaving people to pick the name they know, the party they prefer, or not voting at all.”
SJR E is a proposed constitutional amendment to subject members of the UM, MSU and WSU boards to the gubernatorial appointment process. As terms for current members expire, the governor would appoint new members, who could include the current board member. Moving these offices to appointments would also serve to declutter and shorten ballot lengths.
McBroom’s second measure, SJR F, would require public university governing boards to meet the provisions of the state’s Open Meetings Act.
“Our universities have a huge impact on people’s lives, with many of them owning, overseeing and influencing services in a wide variety of areas, including health care and financial services,” McBroom said. “Subjecting the governing boards of these public institutions to the Open Meetings Act, as was done until a Michigan Supreme Court decision in the 1990s, will help hold them accountable and better ensure they regard public participation as a responsibility.
“The recent turmoil on several of the boards and/or failures to be open and transparent on a massive scale such as happened surrounding Larry Nassar or the dismissal of presidents without public meetings show us how much these reforms are necessary. Resignations, lawsuits, cover-ups, and secret meetings have dominated the news about many of our universities for too long. Our community colleges and public schools follow the OMA, the universities should too.”
Both measures would need to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the state House and Senate to be placed on the ballot, where voters would then vote whether to approve or reject the proposed constitutional amendments.