Greek Row Neighborhood Relations Committee holds closed meetings

By Rochelle McConkie

Once a month since 1987, the Greek Row Neighborhood Relations Committee has met behind closed doors.

This committee, comprising Greek Council Officers, chapter presidents, the Assistant Dean of Students and Greek Council Advisers, neighbors from the Greek Row community and police officers, meets together to discuss ways to improve the relations between U sorority and fraternity houses and the surrounding community.

Because the group has been designated as a non-policy-making committee, it is allowed to hold closed meetings under the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act, which only protects the public’s right to attend a meeting if the group has been defined as a policy-making body.

Utah Code (Section 52-4-103, Section (7)(a)(i)) defines a public body as “?any administrative, advisory, executive or legislative body of the state or its political subdivisions that is created by statute, rule, ordinance or resolution?”

Robert Payne, an attorney in the University of Utah General Council Office, said, “The purpose of these meetings is to get together to brainstorm about how to make community relations better-no real policy is made. If policies were being made, the group would go to the Board of Trustees.”

Assistant Dean of Students and Greek Council Adviser Lori McDonald said that the Neighborhood Relations Committee is a safe place in which students, neighbors and police can exchange ideas.

“There is a trust built up within this community,” McDonald said. “We can discuss what’s working and what’s not. In an open meeting, no one wants to say anything if they know they’re on the record.”

Neighborhood representatives are invited to the meetings to discuss current issues, such as noise, trash in front of houses, maintenance issues and other ordinances. Two neighbors are designated to represent the community and are able to call greek members if there are problems. One designated neighbor is a professor at the U.

Law enforcement officers are assigned to patrol Greek Row on Friday and Saturday nights. At the meetings, they enforce ordinances and also discuss better solutions to problems.

PHC president and Alpha Chi Omega member Nancy Nazarinia said, “Because we have college students living in family neighborhoods, there are often parking and noise issues. We like to bring up any positive or negative issues at these meetings.”

Glen Feighery, the campus adviser for the Society of Professional Journalists, said it is unfortunate that the meetings are closed.

“I feel strongly that there should be a presumption of openness in all meetings that involve or affect the public,” he said. “In this situation, I understand how some people can justify keeping it closed, but I respectfully disagree? these meetings both involve and affect the public, even if they’re not setting policy.”

By policy, the only open-door meetings held at the U are with the Board of Trustees and the Institutional Review Board.

“In these (closed-door) meetings, people are talking about specific items. They want to finalize them before formulating a plan and then announcing them to the public,” said Jerry Basford, assistant vice president of student affairs. “Certain things are open to the public. Committees are not public forums.”