CAA tables bylaw vote until January

Logan Raschke, Managing Editor

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The Council on Academic Affairs tabled a bylaw change regarding the Illinois Open Meetings Act Thursday, pending review from Eastern’s counsel after The Daily Eastern News submitted an objection.

Logan Raschke
Rebecca Throneburg, a professor of communication disorders and sciences, talks to the Council on Academic Affairs, about whether CAA should be involved in the assessment of undergraduate learning goals during the council’s Thursday afternoon meeting.

Laura McLaughlin, general counsel for the university, said in an email that she advised CAA to table the bylaw revision vote so she could read information from recent cases The Daily Eastern News referenced in the objection. The relevant cases include Bd. of Regents of Regency Univ. Sys. v. Reynard, 292 Ill. App.3d 968 (1997) and 1975 Op.Atty.Gen. No. S-917.

According to the “Procedures of the Council on Academic Affairs” section in CAA’s bylaws, it states “All meetings shall adhere to the provisions of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.” The proposed revision to these bylaws would replace that with “All meetings shall be scheduled and function in a fashion consistent with the spirit of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.”

Marita Gronnvoll, CAA chair and communication studies professor, said she wants McLaughlin to be present at the CAA meeting when the councilmembers vote on the proposal in the Spring 2020 semester to explain any relevant legalities.

Gronnvoll and McLaughlin have not scheduled a time yet, but Gronnvoll said she hopes it can take place within the first few weeks back from the holiday break.

The reason CAA first mentioned revising the bylaws regarding the OMA is because it wished to continue its practices while remaining compliant with its own rules.

Gronnvoll said the function and operation of CAA would not change if it decided to approve the proposal.

If CAA voted it down after review and discussion in conjunction with counsel, CAA would need to adhere to all provisions of the OMA in order to be compliant with its own bylaws, Gronnvoll said.

This would include reviewing the entirety of the CAA bylaws and revising them so that they align with the OMA’s provisions, she said.

Moreover, on Nov. 14, CAA acknowledged that it was not being compliant with its own bylaws, so it voted to add the proposal and act upon it on Thursday.

Gronnvoll said CAA does not post a physical agenda outside of its meeting place at least 48 hours in advance, and while it is not ideal, the council sometimes votes to add items to its agendas and acts upon them same-day. These CAA practices violate the provisions of the OMA.

CAA also does not have a public comment portion of its meetings, which is a requirement for public voting bodies under the OMA.

When it comes to CAA’s communication with councilmembers, all documents, including agendas and rationales for items to be acted upon, are published electronically on D2L.

Eastern’s website has a tab for CAA, and students can go there to access its agendas.

However, sometimes CAA’s agendas are not posted on the website at least 48 hours in advance; agendas for meetings sometimes do not get published until after the meeting is already over.

CAA also approved an online course policy revision, adding the line “Finally, a Dean, upon the recommendation of a chairperson, may submit a request to the VPAA office seeking an exception to the certification requirement based on an applicant’s previous successful online teaching experience,” according to the proposal.

Gronnvoll also brought up a potential issue with the Banner software: Banner does not stop office administrators and department chairs from adding the online delivery mode to classes, she said.

That means they could accidentally add online classes that have not been approved through CAA, either as executive actions or proposals, without even knowing it, she said.

CAA’s next step is to contact Brad Bennington from the Registrar’s Office to see what can be done to ensure this mistake does not happen.

Logan Raschke can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].