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The Daily Tar Heel

Open minds and meetings: Leaders as well as students must embrace open governance

At the beginning of every Honor Court meeting, before any hearing begins, a motion is made to enter closed session.

That motion’s inclusion came as the result of a North Carolina trial court decision which found that the Honor Court qualifies as a public body under state law.

Tomorrow is First Amendment Day, when we celebrate the open exchange of ideas and information.

We often see bodies which deal with private information erring toward general secrecy, intentionally or unintentionally.

But if such secrecy pervades that the public cannot oversee or understand the bodies which serve them, then both American laws and values are being violated.

Because it is a public body, the Honor Court’s official meetings must be open to the public, except in limited cases.

Student educational records are one such exemption, under the Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act.

So we don’t have a right to listen to disciplinary proceedings once the meeting is closed.

But that line at the start of each meeting signifies the right, in law and long-espoused as an American tradition, to hold the government accountable.

Leaders can ensure a level of openness that maintains trust in their public institutions.

The laws are there to keep the public informed. Did you know you can request any public body’s meeting schedule up to 48 hours in advance?

This isn’t a battle over private information; this is about understanding the institutions that govern us, and about ensuring that those who govern us understand their responsibilities.

Public bodies should reach out and inform the public — not the other way round.

It can be easy to forget that institutions like the Honor Court are public — students rarely learn of its workings unless they come before it.

So the opportunities that promote openness should be embraced — by the Honor Court and other institutions.

And it’s the law.

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