CUNY open meeting case still up in air

\nNEW YORK – The board of trustees sat at the head of a room\ndesigned for about 50 people. But more than 200 now lined the\nwalls. There were available seats, but CUNY faculty and staff\nmembers’ coats and bags were neatly placed on the empty chairs.\n

That is CUNY professor William Crain’s version of the May 1998\nmeeting that resulted in his and student David Suker’s lawsuit\nagainst the board.

Crain and Suker filed a lawsuit last year, saying that the\nCUNY Board of Trustees has consistently violated state open meeting\nlaws.

“The room was just jammed,” Crain said about the\nMay 26 meeting that sparked the lawsuit.

He believes that due to a controversial vote on the elimination\nof CUNY’s remedial programs, the Trustees purposefully dissuaded\nthe public from attending the meeting, and when they did, ensured\nthat there was not enough room for them.

Many members of the public were forced to wait outside of the\nroom that held about 50 people. Some did not get in. Others stood\nin the back of the room, angered by the mostly faculty and staff\nmembers who would not move their bags and coats off available\nseats.

Protesters to the board’s plan to remove the remedial program\nchanted phrases like, “Save our children,” Crain said,\nand the board told protesters to leave or be arrested.

Many did leave, including Crain who had been chanting. He joined\na protest outside, and saw people in handcuffs leaving the building\nwith police. Those arrested had refused to leave the room after\nthe board asked the entire public, except for the press, to leave.\n

Crain said the innocent were among those arrested, including\nan assemblyman and a Franciscan nun.

Now Crain only hopes to come to a settlement with the university,\nwhich could include a bigger room with more public seats for future\nmeetings.

“Everything’s up in the air,” he said. “We’re\nnot sure we can agree.”

The case went to trial in May, and Crain hopes that he will\nhave some kind of a conclusion by the fall.\n