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Monday, June 1, 2009

Douglass Alumni Board Beats Back Challenge to Reporting/Webcasting

After sometimes heated discussion, the Douglass Alumni Board of Trustees has agreed to continue allowing the reporting of information from Board meetings, and the live webcasting of the meetings themselves. The affirmation during this past Saturday's board meeting, beats back a challenge to that authority that has been brewing over a month now, and has now laid that objection to rest.

Information from the Board meetings and live webcasting of those meetings will continue to the relief of many Douglass Alumni, who emailed Board President Doug Releford with their support to keep the information public, and the live webcasts televised. It took an amendment to the Association by-laws to maintain the free flow of information from the meetings.

"We fought off the challenge to keep the media and the website from reporting on our meetings and events," said Doug, "because it was time that the by-laws reflected what the Board and the alumni really thought about the issue. Our by-laws hadn't been changed since they were written, and this is a great addition to them, to allow the media to continue being present. This is a new day and time, and things are being done live via webcams to people watching on the internet.. more and more people have that access and capability now, and we need to adapt ourselves to that modern service."

"By putting this positive step in the by-laws in writing," Doug continued, "there will no longer be a question about the media and the website's access to what we do, can things be televised, can we or can't we have the media present? This makes our organization very open. It lets everybody know that the Douglass Alumni Association has nothing to hide, that we do things by the book just like everybody else.. anybody can come to our meetings and our events, and not just the news media. Anybody with an interest in who we are, and what we do, can come to the Alumni meetings and events. We are a non-profit organization and therefore, are open to the public."

Alumni Board President Releford continued "I think it is great that the Board members present, felt that our by-laws needed to be changed to have this addition put in, so that there would be no question about the media and the website being present. I applaud them for standing up for what they believe to be the right thing to do, and not to bow to pressure."

"I had a tremendous amount of Alumni members who emailed me, after reading the previous minutes about some people not wanting our meetings televised or reported. The alumni felt like these methods (live webcasts and website reports) were the only way they could actually be at the meetings by them being televised and reported on, and they definitely did not want it to stop. By being members of the Douglass Alumni Association, this was their way of attending the meetings, although they live out of the city or out of state, They were very disappointed to think that maybe we would discontinue having the meetings and events televised. Some members even questioned what we as a Board have to hide from them.. were we doing something illegal, why did we need the secrecy if the meetings were not televised.. I was just amazed to be sent so many emails from Douglass Alumni, questioning why some board members were apparently trying to hide something from them, and why we might be wanting to have our minutes hidden."

"If this action had failed," Doug said, "we would have probably been one of the only non-profit, if not THE single, only non-profit association in Tennessee that prohibited the news media from broadcasting or relaying information from our board meetings and events. As president of the Douglass Alumni Association, I would not have been a part of ANY organization that felt like they had to hide something from the public. I would have left my position as president had that happened, and was ready to step down immediately, had the Board vote gone the other way. I feel that every decision we made and every direction we take, is above board, and we have nothing to hide. We need to give alumni who don't live in our area, and even those who do, but cannot attend the meetings for whatever reason, the chance to see what is going on, and make them feel like they are, at the very least, a part of what we do as a Board."

Recalling the somewhat heated and often passionate discussion during Saturday's Board meeting, Doug said "every board member did finally realize that we really are not trying to hide anything, but the perception might be out there. Some Board members were apparently misinformed that if they had something that was private and needed to be discussed, the board can go into executive session for that discussion. They simply were not aware that conducting an executive session, certain information could be talked about, without mentioning it in public."

But he warned, "Board members do need to be aware though, that they cannot just rush in and say, 'I want to go into executive session' just because they want to talk about something in private. Any decision that is reached in executive session, that requires the Board to spend money, enact policy, schedule events, discuss non-profit activities, or involve the Alumni or the public at large, will eventually have to be talked about during the regular meeting which is open to the news media and the website for reporting. The executive session is NOT permission to take EVERYTHING private, and our board members will need to brush up on that. As president, I have sole discretion on what to take into executive session, or what should be discussed in public. That's the way the Roberts Rules of Order are written. Some of our board members will need to brush up on Roberts Rules of Order, because if there is no justifiable reason for the 'executive session,' I cannot grant it."