The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)
STATE OF MICHIGAN
JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM, ATTORNEY GENERAL
BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS:
COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES:
Waiving class tuition for members of Wayne State University Board of Governors
The Board of Governors may not, under section 4 of 1956 PA 183 dealing with compensation and expenses for Board members, adopt a policy waiving tuition for Board members who take classes offered by Wayne State University.
Opinion No. 7055
May 17, 2000
Mr. John F. Kelly
Wayne State University
Board of Governors
656 W. Kirby
4231 Faculty Administration Building
Detroit, MI 48202
You have asked whether the Board of Governors of Wayne State University may, under section 4 of 1956 PA 183 dealing with compensation and expenses for Board members, adopt a policy waiving tuition for Board members who take classes offered by Wayne State University.
The Wayne State University Organization Act, 1956 PA 183, MCL 390.641 et seq; MSA 15.1350(1) et seq, regulates the university and fixes the membership and powers of its governing board. Section 4, which regulates compensation and expenses for members of the university's Board of Governors, provides as follows:
The board of governors of Wayne state university shall have general supervision of Wayne state university, and the direction and control of all university funds, and shall perform such other duties as may be prescribed by law. Members of the board shall serve without compensation but shall be entitled to actual and necessary expenses incurred in connection with the duties of their office.
In OAG, 1977-1978, No 5313, p 479 (June 14, 1978), the Attorney General concluded that the board of trustees of a community college may not adopt a policy permitting board members, their spouses and dependents, to take tuition-free credit courses at the community college. The conclusion relied on section 112 of the Community College Act of 1966, 1966 PA 331, MCL 389.1 et seq; MSA 15.615(101) et seq, dealing with compensation and expense reimbursement for members of a community college board of trustees. Section 112 of that statute distinguished between compensation and reimbursement for expenses as follows:
No member of the board of trustees . . . may receive any compensation for any services rendered the district. Expenses of board members may be reimbursed when the expenses are authorized by the board of trustees.
OAG, 1977-1978, No 5313, supra, found, based on appellate court decisions, that fringe benefits were included within the broader term "compensation." Since taking a tuition-free credit course constituted a fringe benefit, and thus a form of compensation, it fell within the statutory prohibition against compensation for community college board members.
Likewise, section 4 of 1956 PA 183 plainly states that members of the Wayne State University Board of Governors "shall serve without compensation." Where the Legislature has clearly spoken, the courts simply apply the statute as written. Nat'l Center for Mfg Sciences, Inc v City of Ann Arbor, 221 Mich App 541, 546; 563 NW2d 65 (1997). Here the Legislature has plainly stated its policy to ban compensation for members of the Board of Governors. That ban against compensation prohibits free tuition classes, a fringe benefit that constitutes a form of compensation. OAG, 1977-1978, No 5313, supra.
It is my opinion, therefore, that the Board of Governors of Wayne State University may not, under section 4 of 1956 PA 183 dealing with compensation and expenses for Board members, adopt a policy waiving tuition for Board members who take classes offered by Wayne State University.
JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM