‘Stater’ removed? Why closed meeting?

On Tuesday, Daily Kent Stater reporter Kevin Gareau got booted from a meeting that was being hosted by President Lester Lefton in Moulton Hall.

Shortly after the presentation began, Provost Paul Gaston informed Gareau of the president’s request that the meeting be closed to the media, and Gareau left.

The presentation, titled “Rejuvenating a Commitment to Research,” concerned the future of research at Kent State. The resulting report was commissioned by President Lefton “to advise him regarding opportunities for increased federal support for Kent State’s research enterprise.”

During the fall semester, Lewis-Burke Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, analyzed research activities at the university, and gave suggestions as to where Kent State should focus its research activities.

Since Tuesday, two e-mails sent to Lefton by the Stater received a prompt response. An “executive summary” of the report and the actual report, the “Kent State University Federal Strategic Plan,” were attached.

Game over, right? We got the information, and we’re good to go.

Not quite.

Tuesday’s meeting should not have been closed to the media. Kent State spent $47,500 of the public’s tax money on bringing Lewis-Burke to campus, according to an e-mail from Lefton.

The meeting was held in a public building on the campus of a public university. And it cost taxpayers $47,500.

Whatever Lefton’s reason was for asking the meeting to be closed, we don’t know. Maybe he was caught off-guard, and just wasn’t expecting us there. That’s not enough of a reason to kick a reporter out. The report’s results are important to the university, and are therefore important for us to cover. We shouldn’t have to ask permission to cover important, influential stories.

That’s not how reporting works.

The second this newspaper starts asking the administration, or anyone, permission to cover stories is the second this newspaper loses its independency. Where do we draw the line?

Another issue at stake in the matter is that of transparency.

For democracy to be successful, a government needs to be transparent. This can be attained by holding open meetings and by letting the public see where its money is going.

It’s true that Tuesday’s meeting was lawfully closed to the media. But it shouldn’t have been.

Barring media from such a presentation changes the story from, “Oh, look at what Kent State’s research plan is going to be” to, “Oh, I wonder what the administration is doing behind closed doors.”

This report is about the university’s future. It’s about what President Lefton, and Lewis-Burke Associates, say Kent State needs to focus on to get more money for research.

And it’s being overshadowed by the fact that a Stater reporter was asked to leave a meeting.

The report and its contents are important for the university, and the story will be a big deal.

But right now, it’s a big deal for the wrong reasons.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.