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UB Shale Institute Held Secret Meetings

According to this statement from UB, released Thursday (6/28), their embattled Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI) held open meetings. From the statement:

“There continue to be many opportunities for faculty, staff, students and the public to be engaged in this subject. UB’s Geology Department hosted a seminar series on Marcellus Shale topics in 2011 which was open to the public. The Shale Resources and Society Institute held an open meeting in early April prior to its inauguration to discuss its plans. In mid-May, the institute held another open meeting for faculty to talk about its research agenda and invite collaboration. In addition the institute’s leaders have met individually with several faculty members from across the university.” (Emphasis added)

Since then, UB faculty and interested members of the public who had no knowledge of these “open meetings” have wondered how such events could have slipped by them. Turns out the claims are not true—like much of the information released by, and in defense of, SRSI.

The Geology Department did host seminars that were open to the public last year. But as for the meetings held by SRSI in April and May of this year, they were anything but open meetings.

Click here for a pdf of the April invite. Click here for the one in May.

There is an Open Meetings Law in New York State. Here is the language of the law as it applies to public notice of such meetings:

§104. Public notice.
1. Public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least one week prior thereto shall be given to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at least seventy-two hours before such meeting.
2. Public notice of the time and place of every other meeting shall be given, to the extent practicable, to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at a reasonable time prior thereto.
3. The public notice provided for by this section shall not be construed to require publication as a legal notice.
4. If videoconferencing is used to conduct a meeting, the public notice for the meeting shall inform the public that videoconferencing will be used, identify the locations for the meeting, and state that the public has the right to attend the meeting at any of the locations.
5. When a public body has the ability to do so, notice of the time and place of a meeting given in accordance with subdivision one or two of this section, shall also be conspicuously posted on the public body’s internet website.

Compare that with the email that went out from the UB Department of Geology on May 15, addressed only to UB email addresses:

Date: Tue, 15 May 2012 12:50:11 -0400
Subject: Shale Resources and Society Institute invites you

 You are invited to attend a brownbag organizational meeting of the
UB Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI) John Martin, Director and Bob Jacobi, Co-director
Friday, May 18, 2012
Noon to 1 PM
509 O’Brian North Campus
Room courtesy of Errol Meidinger,
Vice Dean for Research and Faculty Development, Director, Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy
John Martin will give an update on SRSI as well as the NYS Supplemental Generic
Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) of drilling, fracking and it’s the
implications for research.
The meeting will provide a chance to begin interlocking the diverse elements at
UB that can be brought to bear on questions concerning shale resources and
energy. In particular we will set up about four focus groups that we envision
will cooperate in:
•          conducting research,
•          submitting grants,
•          cross fertilization of concepts/research, and
•          student/course support.
Having talked with most of you individually, it appears that there are
significant points of commonality among you, so come to the meeting to join with
colleagues who have similar (or different) interests as yourself in order to
discover opportunities for research and funding collaboration. Additionally, we
will look to you for suggestions of speakers for a seminar series.
Thank you in advance for coming to the meeting to assist in getting SRSI off the
ground. Please feel free to invite others to attend that you think might contribute.
Robyn Wagner
Department of Geology
411 Cooke Hall
Buffalo NY 14260
Phone: 716-645-4857
Fax: 716-645-3999
Work Hours: Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 9-3,
Wednesday 9-5

Joe Brennan, Associate Vice President for University Communications, who is listed as the contact person for the June 28 UB statement, explains the use of the term “open meeting” this way:

“I think you’re using the term in a very specific way. The statement uses it in the common sense that “open meeting” means that people can come to the event. They’re allowed in. They don’t need a ticket. They don’t have to present a credential. They’re not going to be asked to leave. Right? Here’s the point: The institute’s organizers reached out to faculty colleagues, solicited input, invited people to come talk with them about what they wanted to do, asked for research collaborators.”

“To me, that sounds like a closed meeting,” I said. “Isn’t that really what that is?”

“How do you interpret an email to lots and lots of people across the university that says ‘feel free to bring other people’ as a closed meeting? I can’t agree with you,” Brennan answered. “I think the statement the way it’s worded is accurate. We mean “open” in the sense that people were able to come to it if they liked to come to it.”

I told him I would have liked to have come to it.

“Do you have any other questions?” Brennan asked.




  • Jim_Holstun

    “‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master— that’s all.’”

  • Eric Ryan

    wow. as long as there is a debate, this will continue. people need to deny the possibility that it can be good and it can be bad. decide for sure what you believe and take a stand on it. learn your facts at