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UM professor raises red flags in prioritization process - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

UM professor raises red flags in prioritization process

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MISSOULA - A University of Montana professor is seeking public records pertaining budget cuts on campus.

Professor Mehrdad Kia and his lawyer are asking for transparency about documentation of more than nine budget cut meetings from over the last eight months. 

Kia and his lawyer want to know who was at these meetings, where are the minutes/agendas and who are making the recommendations for all 415 programs at the University of Montana.

Without this transparency, Kia is raising questions on if the overall process is legit.

"There’s reference to meetings that took place, even in the provost's office itself, for which there is no content," Kia said. "There is no substance. We want to know what happened in these meetings. We want to know what transpired. What was discussed? Who voted?"

Kia is referring to meetings that he said should have been made public and not held behind closed doors. But red flags in the process are nothing new -- some panel members themselves concerned with the system at a meeting in early November.

“I think the timing has been the most difficult part because were working really fast and so we’re making a lot of decisions on the fly, panel member and Associate Professor of Theater John DeBoer said. "New challenges will bubble up that we haven’t even considered in the preparation. We’re having to triage those challenges while we’re also trying to make a decision.”  

At the same early November meeting, Associative Students of the University of Montana President Braden Fitzgerald added he was satisfied with the process.

"I feel pretty confident that every task force member is doing their homework, understands the weight and gravity of this process and are coming prepared to make tough decisions," Fitzgerald said. 

Kia, along with his lawyer, are also asking for documents identifying the anonymous "reviewers" who rated the 415 programs from "strong" to "not suitable", adding if UM doesn't provide these records, then the program recommendations are invalid.

“It hasn’t been made public and if it is not made available, then we think there may be illegality in respect to either open meetings or public participation or the right to know," said Missoula attorney Quentin Rhoades. "And if there is, these recommendations are void.”

A Montana state law says "a person may request and make copies of public records from a public agency" and Kia says UM falls under these guidelines. 

UM was close to ending contracts with nearly 30 lecturers last week but rescinded the letter of termination soon after it was sent.

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