The Lumberjack student newspaper
A sign outside of the Redwood Bowl informs the public of the campus closure due to COVID-19 on April 13. | Photo by Thomas Lal

Humboldt State Violated California Law by Requiring Registration for a Public Meeting

HSU briefly required registration for two public webinars as a security measure

HSU briefly required registration for two public webinars as a security measure

Update, April 22: Humboldt State Vice President of Enrollment Management Jason Meriwether penned a letter to The Lumberjack, making the case that HSU did not violate California law. Read it here.

Editor’s note: Grace Caswell is a student in Journalism Department Chair Vicky Sama’s media law course. Almost the entire staff of The Lumberjack has also had Sama as an instructor in journalism courses.

Humboldt State University hosted public meetings via Zoom to inform the public about its projected enrollment decline and budget cuts April 13 and 15. However, as a security measure protecting the university from “Zoom bombings,” HSU enacted mandatory registration requirements prior to entering the meetings in violation of California state law.

“Zoom bombings” describe a new term for an infiltration or hijacking of a Zoom session with the intent to harass and disrupt the session. With an increase in Zoom users, from 10 million in December 2019 to more than 200 million in March of 2020, Zoom CEO Eric S. Yuan released a statement April 1 detailing additional measures being taken to enhance Zoom security over the next 90 days.

HSU Vice President of Enrollment Jason Meriwether claimed HSU has experienced Zoom bombings and enacted the registration as an additional security measure. The additional measures required the public to respond twice via Google forms before being sent the Zoom meeting invitations, basically giving the administration, a government body, the power to sift through and deny public access.

An approved registration screen for one of HSU’s enrollment and budget webinars held April 13 and 15.

HSU Chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication and media law professor Vicky Sama alerted and engaged with HSU administration, specifically Meriwether, on the violations being committed.

“Using ‘security’ reasons to require the public additional registration to access a public meeting on the people’s business does not satisfy the openness and liberties that our Constitution provides,” Sama said in an email. “In addition to violating state law that I explained in my earlier email.”

“The unintentional message is that some people are not welcome and/or we at HSU don’t want the public to know what is going on.”

Vicky Sama, HSU journalism chair

Sama said the additional requirement for the public to register prior to receiving an invitation was tantamount to reviewing their qualifications.

“The email did not justify the registration nor did it outline its purpose, raising suspicions that the university doesn’t want certain people to attend or know what is going on,” Sama wrote. “The unintentional message is that some people are not welcome and/or we at HSU don’t want the public to know what is going on.”

Specifically, HSU’s actions against the public violated the Brown Act and Bagley-Keene Act. Both California state acts provide assurance of rights to the public. Sommer Ingram Dean, staff attorney for the Student Press Law Center, explained how these security measures directly conflict with both acts.

“Section 54953.3 of Brown says ‘A member of the public shall not be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of a legislative body of a local agency, to register his or her name, to provide other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance,’” Dean explained in an email.

“Section 11124 of Bagley Keene says ‘No person shall be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of a state body, to register his or her name, to provide other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance.'”

Sommer Ingram Dean, staff attorney for Student Press Law Center

Additionally, Dean cited the Bagley-Keene Act and the measures it provides ensuring the public’s rights.

“Section 11124 of Bagley Keene says ‘No person shall be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of a state body, to register his or her name, to provide other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance,’” Dean wrote.

Sama informed Meriwether of the illegal activity violating both the Brown and Bagley-Keene Acts April 13, citing the specific sections mentioned above. In response, Meriwether continued with the registration in place and adjusted the meetings by offering public links.

“Since this issue was just raised today, it appears to me that the best thing to do is to move forward with today as planned,” Meriwether said in an email. “We will also explore hosting a third event. We will provide both the option for registration and the public link for the already scheduled event on Wednesday. The entire point of having these events was to be transparent.”

Since then, the links to the April 13 and 15 meetings went public. However, the concern more surrounds HSU’s decision to filter through the public’s right to access a public meeting regarding matters directly impacting them.

The registration requirement, Sama wrote, amounts to intimidation and goes against the spirit of openness and transparency, and “reeks of sneakiness.” In a time of crisis, government bodies can use the mirage of security to deny the public their right to voice their opinions. Ultimately, it can amount to an abuse of power against the public.

Share This Post

More Stories

Nina G uses comedy to start conversations

During the virtual comedy event held by the SDRC, Nina Ghiselli tells her story and emphasizes the importance of student disability resources within schools.

It’s not just the Capitol Police

As the world watched from their televisions on January 6, we witnessed scenes unfold before our eyes that were, to many, unimaginable: supporters of President Trump swarmed the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building, then proceeded to break in and

The San Jose State University Football Team Comes to Humboldt

On a day’s notice from administration, the SJSU football team spends a week and a half in Humboldt practicing because their county did not allow it. Students react to their presence on campus in the midst of a pandemic. Directed

Homelessness in Humboldt, CA

This is the first trailer of a homeless documentary created by HSU students. We have spent months filming and will continue to film throughout the next year. Follow the heartbreaking stories of the homeless community around Humboldt county and the

Thrifty Arcata

Taking a tour of the local thrift shops in Arcata during the COVID-19 pandemic. Directed and produced by Skylar Gaven.

House Plants Generate Peace and Meaning During the Pandemic

Three different people with the same love for plants! House plants have become quite popular these days especially since we’re all basically stuck inside during the pandemic. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but these beautiful green oxygen-makers provide more

Prop 22 represents political favoritism of money over workers’ rights

California’s passing of proposition 22 on Nov. 5 represents a frustrating history of workers’ rights being trampled by the overwhelming influence of greed in politics.  This proposition forces app-based workers to be classified as independent contractors, rather than employees. This

Remembering Evelyn Andrews 10 months after her passing

By Katelyn Dendas It has been 10 months since my friend, teammate and freshman year dorm mate, Evelyn Andrews, passed away. I don’t remember what the grief counselor said or what transpired after that Monday, but I do remember arriving

Protestors seek to defund HSUPD

Two local, activist organizations work together to stage a sit-in against Humboldt State’s police department.

Getting stuck on the Trump train

Writer Anthony Aragon details his experience of accidentally joining a pro-Trump car rally.

Justin Turner exposes the World Series to COVID-19

Justin Turner didn’t need to be the story in the wake of the Dodgers’ first World Series victory in 32 years. Instead here we are, wondering what sort of, if any, punishment Major League Baseball will decide to hand down

Four more years of fear

News Editor Carlos Holguin explains why he is worried about the next four years.

Dismal democracy

The Lumberjack editorial staff comments on America’s flawed electoral system As the world watches the United States 2020 election results, waiting for our pseudodemocratic process to churn out a new president, historically unprecedented voting methods misrepresents the reported Election Day

The Mario triple pack invokes a nostalgia attack

When I was a child, the first video game system I owned was a Nintendo 64. Among the games I played was Super Mario 64. I played it all the time and when I wasn’t playing it, I was lying

Women’s lacrosse drops their competitive season

Greta Roberts, president and player of Humboldt State University’s women’s lacrosse team, made the decision with her coach and teammates to cancel the upcoming spring season. The team decided that not being able to recruit in the fall would be

Dobby’s proposition opinions

Haven’t voted yet? Well, you’re running out of time. Here’s a quick rundown of California’s propositions on the ballot this year

Corporations buy out propositions

In a series of general and misleading advertisements, corporate backers of Propositions 22 and 23 show their grubby hands

CDOR continues virtually

The Campus and Community Dialogue On Race returns covering global justice for Black Lives.

Indigenous Food Sovereignty

Local food management practices of the Tolowa Dee-ni, Yurok and other indigenous peoples.

Humboldt State Admin attempts to discredit the Lumberjack

***A Lumberjack editorial represents both the majority opinion of the student newspaper’s editorial board, nine editors, as well as the overwhelming majority of Humboldt State University’s student body. Collectively, an editorial echos, embodies and advocates for community beliefs.*** Insensitive communications

Music of the Moment 6

21 Savage and Metro Boomin drop a classic with “Savage Mode II”

Spartans arrive at HSU despite campus concerns

***Editor’s note: SJSU football program was tested in congruence with Mountain West conference guidelines*** The Spartans have arrived and this time they’re not carrying spears or shields. Instead the San Jose State football team stepped onto the Humboldt State campus

Music of the Moment 5

After shooting Megan Thee Stallion, Tory Lanez cancels himself

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Comparisons between episodes of the classic TV show The Twilight Zone and our own dismal reality

Music of the Moment 4

YoungBoy Never Broke Again dodges the sophomore slump with his new album “Top.”

Self-Care Cuts

Changing your hair to change your life

HSU Seaweed Farm sets sail

The first commercially-approved seaweed farm in California will be on the map.

Music of the Moment 3

For better or worse, Big Sean is likely gone for good.

More Layers, More Protection?

Humboldt State demands double masking on campus, does more layers equal more protection?

The Ethnic Studies Bill is a Blessing

Ethnic Studies will thankfully become mandatory for all California State University students – as it should be.

The Complex Interface of Humans and Wildfires

How fire suppression is a mixed bag in Humboldt County Every fire season, blankets of smoke roll over Humboldt County. Here on the coast, that’s as close to wildfires as some of us get. But our practice of fire suppression

Defund HSU’s Police Department

Incidents of racism from the former UPD Chief, past examples of excessive force from current officers and a shrinking university budget.

How Not To Be Bitten By A Kitten

Please prepare to be prey Congratulations, a baby feline has recently come into your life. If they’re anywhere from 2-18 months, they bite. They see you as prey. Because you are prey. You always have been. You always will be.

Graduating Into Uncharted Waters

HSU graduates attempt to navigate a world turned upside-down by COVID-19 In May, Humboldt State University graduated hundreds of students, as it does every year. Unlike past years, graduates didn’t get to shake hands with their respective dean and receive

HSU Cultural Center Budget Slashed

Associated Students leaves student body devastated after significant reductions in cultural center’s budget.

All aboard the plague ship

Unprecedented times are met with normalized behavior, HSU puts students and community members at higher risk after reopening campus and student housing.

Music of the Moment

The hip-hop community rallies behind the Black Lives Matter Movement

Inside the Immune System

How the body uses multiple levels of defense against foreign intruders

Catcalling Can’t Continue

Verbal harassment toward women is about control and the assertion of gender discrimination