The San Diego State committee that met at the last minute before the university changed its admissions rules — the group one member derided as a “rubber stamp” — was originally imagined as way for community members to weigh in on admissions changes.

Eight years ago, activists from the Latino Coalition for Education were upset with earlier changes to the university rules that were unveiled and unrolled quickly. They teamed up with a legislator, the late Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh, to draft a law that would require admissions changes to be publicly aired over time.

But Firebaugh stopped work on the law when the CSU system began putting together its own rules. Its board approved the rules in 2002.

The new rules included something that the activists wanted: Advisory committees. Latino activists imagined them in drafts as including leaders from disadvantaged communities that would consult and collaborate in the design and implementation of new enrollment policies.

A draft provided by an SDSU professor who helped usher in the changes shows that the activists wanted the committee to fall under the Brown Act, which requires open meetings with advance notice. They took out the rule when someone — it isn’t clear who — erroneously told them that all CSU meetings were already covered by the Brown Act. They aren’t.

Legislative bodies in the California State University system fall under a similar law, the Bagley Keene Act. Advisory committees have to follow it “if created by a formal action of the state body.”

San Diego State attorney Marlene Jones said the committee doesn’t have to follow the law because it advises the president alone and its members are chosen by him. Attorneys from the First Amendment Coalition disagreed, saying neither reason would exempt the committee from the law if it came about because of a “formal action” of the board.

Olivia Puentes-Reynolds, co-chair of the Latino Coalition, said the rules have fallen short of what they envisioned years ago. “The intent is what is important,” she said. “And it’s obvious — they took out the community input.”

— EMILY ALPERT

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