Indiana student journalists seeks access to meetings of group that gives out student fees

INDIANA — A student journalist at the Indiana University Southeast has filed a complaint with the state seeking access to meetings that determine the allocation of more than $500,000 in annual student activity fees to various student organizations.

Jeremy Eiler said he wants to make public the currently closed sessions held by the 13-member Student Life Committee. The committee is responsible for listening to presentations from each organization requesting money and proposing a budget to the chancellor.

Indiana University attorney Kiply Drew denied Eiler entry under the justification that, because the committee is not appointed by the IU Board of Trustees, it can hold private meetings, Eiler said in the complaint he filed. The vice chancellor of student affairs appoints the committee, which is composed of one administrator, two faculty members, two staff and eight students.

Eiler argues that because the account can be audited by the state, the group is a public body and should hold its meetings in public. Plus, he said, some students aren’t happy with the way the university is spending their money and should be allowed to keep watch over how public money is spent.

“Basically, only the committee members could know what the budget was,” he said.

The complaint, filed March 15 with the Office of the Public Access Counselor, will result in an advisory opinion, meaning it carries no power of enforcement or punishment against the college. But Eiler said all he wants is a second opinion.

“I expect it to clarify to the school what the actual laws are for open meetings because it’s not clear,” he said. “Even though it’s an advisory opinion, it says what the state believes the law should read. Perhaps that will add some clarity.”

Representatives for the university did not return calls seeking comment.

After the chancellor’s approval — which Eiler calls “basically a formality” in his complaint — the proposed budget will be presented to the IU Board of Trustees at its April meeting.

“This is the only level of the process where the public can have meaningful input and advocate for change,” he wrote in the complaint.

By Daniel Moore, SPLC staff writer. Contact Moore by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 127.