University of Buffalo Council violated Open Meetings Law, according to top open-government official

The UB Council violated New York State’s Open Meetings Law on Monday by barring students from its meeting, according to the state’s top open-government official.

 Roughly 50 graduate students and faculty members congregated outside Capen 505, hoping to attend the meeting. Chief of Staff Beth Del Genio told members of the Living Stipend Movement –– who were petitioning for higher graduate teaching assistant wages –– that only two representatives could attend the meeting due to limited space and the threat of violating fire code.

 Only 28 people were in the room for the meeting while the room’s maximum occupancy is 38 people. There were empty chairs that could have accommodated more members of the movement. According to Open Meetings Law, the council –– a public body tasked with overseeing and advising UB President Satish Tripathi –– must allow members of the public who wish to attend a meeting into the meeting.

“Public bodies shall make or cause to be made all reasonable efforts to ensure that meetings are held in an appropriate facility which can adequately accommodate members of the public who wish to attend such meetings,” section 103 of article seven of the Open Meetings Law states

UB spokesperson Kate McKenna provided a statement from the university, stating the council didn’t violate the Open Meetings Law. Because council meetings traditionally attract a small number of public observers, it was not prepared to accommodate the large number of protestors. (Read more…)