The student government at Utah State University will open meetings that have been closed to the public for more than a year, after the president of the student body senate said he realized what they were doing was illegal.
The Utah Open and Public Meetings Act requires these meetings to be open because the student government is a public body and is supported in part by public funds. The specific meetings in question are for the Academic Opportunity Fund (AOF), which provides money for students needing financial help to attend conferences and is funded through student tuition.
The senate president, Kevin Abernethy, said that since the meetings discuss students’ personal financial matters, they have traditionally been closed to ensure their privacy. According to First Amendment lawyers in the state, however, these meetings don’t fall into one of the six exemptions and are presumptively open.
Keeping these meetings private also violated the student government constitution, which doesn’t contain any provisions on closing meetings. It also states that any financial reports using student government funds – such as those discussed in the AOF meetings – must be available to all members of the student body.