The University of Michigan Board of Regents will expand opportunities for constituents to communicate directly with regents and implement new guidelines for those speaking during formal meetings.
The new approach will take effect for the board’s Dec. 7 meeting on the Ann Arbor campus.
“Our overall goal with the changes is to create more avenues for community members to reach out to regents directly, while also hearing from individuals on a broader range of topics during the formal sessions,” said Board of Regents Chair Sarah Hubbard.
Starting a week before the Dec. 7 board meeting community members can submit written comments or video messages to the eight elected regents through a new web portal. This is an addition to being able to sign up for in-person public comments during the board’s formal sessions, which are scheduled eight times each year.
Those who want to address the board in person can begin to sign up for public comments on the board’s website a week in advance of the meeting. Up to 10 individuals will be able to speak in person and they will be confirmed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Speakers will have up to two minutes to speak and individuals will not be confirmed more than once every six months. Only one person will be allowed to address any given topic at each meeting. If more than one person signs up to address the same topic, the first person confirmed will be allowed to speak.
New to the guidelines is an opportunity for one speaker to have additional time to address the board when there is significant interest in a particular issue with several speakers seeking to address the same topic, Hubbard said. In these cases, the first person to sign up will be given up to five minutes to address the board.
If the first speaker opts out of speaking, the next person who signed up on the same topic will be confirmed to speak.
Signup for the Dec. 7 meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Nov. 30. An agenda for the meeting will be posted at noon Dec. 4.
People with disabilities who need assistance should contact the Office of the Vice President and Secretary of the University in advance at 734-763-8194. Information is available at the Board of Regents’ website.
Anyone who opts out of speaking after signing up must notify the Office of the Vice President and Secretary at least two days before the board meeting so the speaker list can be modified.
Two additional speaker slots will continue to be reserved for individuals who sign up to speak on an item that appears on that month’s agenda.
All of those addressing the board are expected to maintain appropriate norms of decorum and should treat others with respect and civility. Speakers who disregard these expectations will not be confirmed to speak at future meetings.
“It’s important that we, as regents, hear whatever is on the minds of our constituents,” Hubbard said. “But sharp criticism and strong disagreement can be delivered with civility.”
The Dec. 7 meeting is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. in University Hall, inside the Ruthven Building, 1109 Geddes Ave., on the Ann Arbor campus. Members of the public will be able to watch a livestream of the meeting.
Collectively, the changes are designed to provide more opportunities for regents to hear from community members on a broader range of topics, Hubbard said.
“We look forward to trying these new approaches and see how they go. We may consider additional modifications to the speaker and engagement protocols in the future” she said.
(UPDATE: This article has been amended to reflect a new start time for the Dec. 7 Board of Regents meeting.)