5/30/2010: over public records. UO has a press release here:
A new Office of Public Records will be established at the University of Oregon June 1, in a key step toward fulfilling President Richard Lariviere’s pledge to make the university as responsive, open and transparent as possible.
Brian Smith, the UO assistant vice president for administration, will manage the new office as part of his existing responsibilities until a permanent public records officer is hired. He will begin constructing a framework for the new public records office.
“The University of Oregon has always recognized the importance of public access to its operations,” Smith said. “Creation of the Office of Public Records emphasizes an institutional commitment to openness.”
Bullshit. Under Dave Frohnmayer and Melinda Grier, UO had a well earned reputation for secrecy and contempt for Oregon’s public records law. Sorry for being a grouch, but there’s a reason that truth comes before reconciliation.
But Lariviere is changing things. The full story on why he fired General Counsel Melinda Grier is still not known and may never be known. Attorney General Kroger refuses to release his records on the investigation, other than a summary report that raises more questions than it answers. But obviously public records played a big part in the firing. RG reporter Ron Bellamy had repeatedly asked Ms Grier and Assistant GC Doug Park, who was also UO’s Public Records Officer, for copies of the Bellotti contract. While state law requires a prompt response, both Ms Grier and Mr. Park ignored the requests and – apparently – never bothered to tell Pres Lariviere anything was amiss. Lariviere responded first by firing Ms Grier, and now by taking authority for public records requests away from Doug Park. Doug does still have oversight, but presumably UO’s new General Counsel – if they ever find anyone interested in the job – will have the right to hire their own assistant GC’s.
The UO Senate has also responded to the transparency situation. Last year Nathan Tublitz’s motion for increased financial transparency passed overwhelmingly, in the wake of the furlough Town Hall fiasco and Provost Bean’s refusal to share financial information – while asking faculty to take a pay cut. Last month the Senate established a “University Senate Transparency Committee” to review the UO administration’s procedures for providing public records and financial information to the UO community.
Meanwhile New VP Brad Shelton has been working to establish a system whereby faculty and staff can access detailed expenditure data via Duckweb. According to Tublitz’s Senate motion that effort was supposed to be complete by September 2009, and it is way behind schedule. Initially this was because of foot-dragging by Grier. Now it because some real confidentiality issues have become apparent. I think they are being worked out. Additionally, the IR and BRP offices have posted large amounts of data and analysis on their websites. And Shelton’s new budget model itself is a big improvement from the way Frances Dyke did things. All this is a huge change from a year back.
In short, UO is now completely open and transparent, those responsible for the past errors have all been fired, our new central administration will never hide any embarrassing decisions or errors from the faculty, and this is the last post UO Matters will ever need to make.