ATHENS, Ga. - As a new governor, Roy Barnes moved quickly to strengthen Georgia sunshine laws governing open meetings and records.
Years later, law students bounced out of several faculty meetings at Mr. Barnes' alma mater, the University of Georgia, complain that his administration has been slow to help them determine their rights.
"What good does a strengthened statute do citizens of Georgia if our highest elected official is unwilling to fight to have it applied?" said Josh Moore, one of 19 top students who signed a letter to the governor in the spring, asking him to seek a ruling on open faculty meetings.
The governor's spokeswoman, Stephanie Kirijan, said Thursday that Mr. Barnes' office received the letter in March and forwarded it to Attorney General Thurbert Baker the same day.
Neither Mr. Barnes' office nor Mr. Baker's office, students say, has responded to them.
Josh Belinfante, the president of the University of Georgia Student Bar Association, said he's disappointed. "It's not as if we distrust the faculty," Mr. Belinfante said, but without state guidance, "it creates a kind of tension."
In recent years, the students sought access to faculty meetings held to discuss spending of tuition dollars, honor-court changes and a provision requiring a petition for re-entrance for first-year students with grades below C-minus.
Dean David Shipley and teachers accommodated the students at some sessions, but closed some when they veered into sensitive territory.
State law prohibits closed meetings for any public policy-making body, with exceptions for personnel, legal and real-estate matters.
A number of law professors oppose observers at faculty "sausage-making" sessions, where they mull hiring decisions, discuss student records and propose scholarship candidates, Mr. Shipley said.
Some cite federal legal protections on student information, and argue that admitting an audience forces faculty members to play to the crowd or clam up.
Others simply wonder why students would bother attending the sometimes-less-than-scintillating sessions, during which issues such as allocation of office space can spark lengthy discussions.
"Most people, law students and others, usually have something else to do," said law professor Larry Blount, one of several teachers who has sided with the students.
"At some point, it's vital for us to come together as a faculty to decide the policy of the school," said Mr. Shipley, who's hoping to solve the matter internally this year with guidelines that satisfy both students and faculty.
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