The University Record, October 15, 1996

Court order halts search

A ruling Oct. 11 by Washtenaw County Judge Timothy P. Connors has halted the search for a new U-M president.

The Herald Co. Inc., Booth Newspapers, the Ann Arbor News, Detroit Free Press Inc., and the Detroit News Inc. Filed suit that day to halt the search, claiming the University is violating the Open Meetings Act.

As a result of the judge's ruling, the Oct. 14 public meeting of the Board of Regents, acting as the Presidential Search Committee (PSC), was canceled. At this meeting, the Presidential Search Advisory Committee was to recommend five candidates to the PSC. Instead, the Board was to convene publicly yesterday and was expected to immediately close the meeting "to consult with its attorney regarding trial or settlement strategy in connection with specific pending litigation, as provided for in Section 8(e) of the Open Meetings Act, as amended by 1984 PA 202."

A show-cause hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. this morning (Oct. 15) before Judge Melinda Morris. Until then, Connors ordered the University to "refrain . . . from engaging in any actions of any kind whatsoever with respect to the 1996 presidential search."

The following statement was released by Walter L. Harrison, vice president for university relations Oct. 11:

"We are profoundly disappointed that the newspapers have chosen to file a lawsuit against the Board of Regents less than 72 hours before the final phase of the search for the 12th president of the University of Michigan. As early as January 1996, the Regents adopted a process for conducting the search. This process was designed to provide for openness and accountability to the public, while allowing for confidentiality during various stages of the search. The process was explained fully, reported on and commented on in the newspaper outlets which have filed suit. One can only wonder why the newspapers waited until October 11 to state their intentions.

"We question whether the news agencies which have joined in this lawsuit can fairly report on the story of the presidential search in the days ahead. At minimum, we believe that it will be awkward for these agencies to provide unbiased coverage of events they are themselves generating.

"The Board of Regents of the University of Michigan is committed to finding the best person to serve as the University's 12th president. We believe the search process we have developed is in full compliance with the law and we intend to make our case vigorously in the days ahead."