Protesters who show up to the Medical University of South Carolina board of trustees meetings on Thursday or Friday won’t be allowed inside unless they drop their signs at the door, an MUSC spokeswoman said.
And they may be barred from the board room regardless if there aren’t enough chairs to go around.
The board will convene for the first time this week since passing new “rules of decorum.” The rules prohibit “signage or placards” during board meetings and they require members of the public to sit down in a designated area in the board room.
The decorum policy is meant to promote civility, but it will effectively silence the members of Healthcare Workers United, who want a better grievance process, a higher minimum wage and more diversity at MUSC. The group has attended MUSC Board meetings for more than year.
According to the decorum rules, members of the public may not approach board members during meetings or disrupt the agenda. Profanity and “fighting words” are prohibited.
Typically the protesters stand silently around the room. Some MUSC staff members stand up, too, or wait outside in the lobby. There usually aren’t enough chairs to accommodate the number of people who attend board meetings.
MUSC spokeswoman Heather Woolwine said a university auditorium has been reserved this week to provide additional seating. The meeting will be broadcast in the auditorium. “MUSC staff are happy to assist individuals to this location as needed,” Woolwine said.
Anyone who violates the decorum policy will be warned by board of trustees Chairman Don Johnson or “the presiding officer.” Noncompliant guests will be asked to leave the meeting.
Woolwine confirmed that public safety officers would be assigned to the meeting because that’s “standard operating procedure.”
At least four security officers were assigned near the boardroom during a meeting on Jan. 31, when the board unanimously passed the rules of decorum. Fifteen board members attended that meeting via conference call. Only one member attended the meeting in person at MUSC.
To “maintain security,” Woolwine would not disclose the number of public safety officers assigned to the board meetings this week.
Community activists Leonard Riley and Thomas Dixon say they plan to attend this week’s meeting even though they believe the decorum rules were designed to shut them out.
Riley confirmed Thursday that the group plans to attend the Friday meeting. He was unsure of their plans for the Thursday meeting.
The board will convene at 8 a.m. Thursday and Friday in Colcock Hall.
Among other business, board members are expected to discuss a mortgage for the proposed $385 million MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital.
Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598.