PHEAA Remote Board Meeting
Teleconferencing is a sound method for convening committee meetings, defraying costs, and sharing information. This week – in the midst of the sanctions imposed during the COVID-19 outbreak, and in accordance with good common sense – many agencies made allowances. Among these emergency measures, some agencies enabled work-from-home options for employees. These sound protective measures resulted in a PHEAA remote Board meeting.
A Double Standard
Board members dialed in for the meeting. Not one Board member traveled onsite. PHEAA’s 7th Street operations remained shut down, with the building closed to non-essential personnel.
However, the public received no invitation to the teleconference. Rock the Capital, which normally tapes PHEAA’s meetings, did not receive permission to remotely attend. Instead, we learned that public participation was limited to those who traveled to PHEAA’s morgue. Apparently, PHEAA never got the Governor’s social distancing memo.
Rock the Capital personnel sat in a separate conference room with “essential” PHEAA staff, and permitted to tape what was billed as a pro forma meeting. However, this PHEAA remote Board meeting remained a substantive session, lasting the usual amount of time.
What was unusual was PHEAA’s double standard. With the building closed, the Board remotely attended for safety. Why compel the public to violate the social distancing standard by forcing attendees to sit in a confined room to listen to a phone call?
A Call for Change
Rock the Capital renews its call to have all PHEAA Board meetings live streamed. We renew our call to allow the public to participate – like the Board – via teleconferencing.
We understand the reasoning behind the PHEAA remote board meeting. However, the lack of effort to facilitate attendance by the public makes us wary.
We must avoid the mistakes we made in the post-911 world of allowing government to operate secretly behind closed doors. There is is no excuse for locking the public out of decision making.