Students cry legal foul as Virginia university board adopts controversial resolutions without public notice

The governingboard at Virginia Tech ruffled feathers and may have broken freedom ofinformation laws when it recently passed two resolutions without publicnotice.

At its March 10 meeting, the Board of Visitors passed a”Non-Discrimination Resolution,” which eliminated affirmative action in Tech’sadmission policy and removed sexual orientation from the writtennon-discrimination policy.

“[The board] voted in an open session but theydidn’t say what they were doing,” said Brian McNeill, editor at Tech’s paper,The Collegiate Times. “They didn’t open it up for discussion or debate atall, publicly.”

Under its own bylaws, the board is subject to Virginia’sfreedom of information statutes, and its meetings are open to the public. Tech’sStudent Government Association President, Sterling Daniel, said that theresolutions were introduced and voted on at the same meeting. All boarddiscussion was conducted during an executive session, which eliminated publicdiscussion before the vote.

The board passed another resolution thatwould have required individuals and organizations to request permission togather on campus from the president at least 30 days prior to the gathering. Itwould also have forbidden speakers and organizations that advocated orparticipated in acts of violence or terrorism.

However, Virginia AttorneyGeneral Jerry Kilgore advised against accepting that resolution March 20. At ananti-war rally the same day, Tech President Charles Steger announced to cheersthat the university would not adopt the resolution.

The students’reaction to the resolutions, as well as discussions among board members andadministration, convinced the board to reconvene to discuss thenon-discrimination resolution in public. The meeting has been set for April6.

Until then, the student government is working with the American CivilLiberties Union to pursue legal action to reinstate affirmative action and theoriginal non-discrimination policy.