By Anne Lowe

OPEN MEETINGS — The University of California Board of Regents will decide Wednesday whether to scrap a decades-old policy restricting the use of recording devices at their meetings.

The American Civil Liberties Union urged the Regents to change the policy in July after a filmmaker was denied access to a meeting because he intended to record it. According to the Regents’ current policy, only accredited members of the press are allowed to record meetings; the ACLU argued that the policy violated the Bagley-Keene Act.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the incident that led to the Regents’ change of heart:

"The law clearly requires that they change the policy, and this seems like a fine way to do it," said attorney Michael Risher of the ACLU of Northern California, who had called on the Regents to update their policies in July, after three UC spokespersons questioned filmmaker Ric Chavez or barred him from the public meeting.

Bagley-Keene allows anyone to quietly record or videotape public meetings. It also prohibits state officials from requiring attendees to identify themselves.

But Wednesday, July 14, Chavez, unaware of his rights, e-mailed UC's public information office asking permission to film the regents. UC spokespersons laid out the restrictions, and asked Chavez to identify himself and explain what he would do with his film.

Ultimately, they said he could not be accommodated in the press section – the only place cameras have been permitted.

Chavez showed up the next day anyway. That's when a UC spokeswoman barred him from the auditorium with his camera.

A Chronicle reporter, present during the incident, wrote up the story. State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and several advocates for open government then urged the regents to reconsider their policy from 1975, even as UC attorneys were already taking a look at it.