UO uses FERPA to hide NCAA report

12/24/2010: UO’s Public Records Officer Liz Denecke and AD Rob Mullens are now using FERPA privacy rules to block the release of public records of an NCAA investigation of the Ducks. This is after the RG paid Denecke $367.29 for the records. They made the request September 14. On December 21 UO told the RG they would not get the records. The State AG typically gives UO 2 weeks to reply. (Thanks to the Commentator for the link).

So, the RG must now appeal to Attorney General John Kroger, asking him to order UO to release the records. Under state law UO will have to pay for the appeal, which typically costs $2,000 or so. Does Ms Denecke have much chance of keeping the documents private? Not likely. Here’s what happened when FSU tried the same stunt. The court told them to stop the bullshit:

First, the ruling discusses the elaborately indirect mechanism that the NCAA has devised for sharing information with its member institutions. Knowing that it might trigger state open-records laws to actually provide a tangible copy of a document to a state agency like FSU, the NCAA has instead set up a cyber-worksite at which documents may be reviewed without ever physically entering the “custody” of the college. That’s a cute idea, but the court was not buying it: “The appeal by the University is a matter of public concern.  It is not transformed into a private matter merely because the documents the University lawyers used to prepare the appeal reside on a computer owned by a private organization.”

 In the RG story, AD Rob Mullens is quoted as saying

“nothing has changed since we provided all the information (to the Pac-10 and the NCAA). We haven’t received anything (in return).”

I wonder what his definition of “received” is? The report on the ruling then goes on:

The court then turned to — and made very short work of — the FERPA argument.
At the outset, the court made a key observation about the nature of FERPA. Despite the shorthand way that it often is oversimplified, FERPA does not instruct schools to reject open-records requests: “By its terms, FERPA does not prohibit the disclosure of any educational records. Instead, it operates to deprive an educational institution of its eligibility for federal funding if its policies or practices run afoul of the rights of access and privacy protected by the law.”

So what is Ms Denecke up to here, besides wasting our money? She is wasting the RG’s time. It’s been more than 2 months since they made the request. She figures if she can keep stalling, the story will die, and the next time an interesting one comes along the RG won’t bother to even make a PR request. Victory for her and for UO’s efforts to keep its athletic operations from the public who pay the bills.

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