(Fourth and fifth updates) Oregon Hall air quality letter

Fourth and Fifth updates, 10/7/2012 and 10/8/2012:

From: David Hubin
Subject: FW: [UO Matters] New comment on (Update) Oregon Hall air quality letter.
Date: October 7, 2012 5:42:32 PM PDT
[UO Matters],
Perhaps you are already aware of this, but your representation in UO Matters of the note I sent to you last Friday (included below) was incomplete and therefore misleading.  Although you specifically mention that I convey that Public Records Office is not equipped to monitor downloads, you neglect to include that in that same email I also assured you that we would not seek that capacity.  In case my stance was not clear enough, with this email I want to assure you that I would never tolerate any attempt to track who looks at documents.  
I am disappointed your blog entry did not capture the full intent and message of my email.
Dave

Dave’s disappointed in me? Actually, things are worse than this. The PRO office under Hubin’s direction has been insistent on making sure that the names of people requesting public records are posted on the PRO website, to the point of refusing to accept anonymous requests. This is why I got involved in this in the first place – the people who wanted the air quality expenditure documents were afraid they would be outed. And they would have been, thanks to Hubin’s policy.

While a few – as in maybe one or two – other universities post the names of requestors, I don’t know of any other Oregon agencies that do. As one of hundreds of counter-examples, the Oregon Secretary State has an anonymous system for reporting fraud and abuse, run by an outside contractor to ensure confidentiality: https://oregonsos.alertline.com/gcs/welcome. Not exactly for public records, but you get the idea. Hubin and UO’s PRO don’t allow anonymity because _____?

In addition, Dave’s response avoids the issue of whether or not UO administrators *outside the PRO* have monitored access to the PRO website, or use of the FT tool on Duckweb. I think they have, and may still.

And then there’s this email I just got from the PRO director, in response to a request to get a copy of the list of UO personal services contracts that SEIU had requested. They ignored my request for a simple email with the pdf, and told me:

From: “Office of Public Records” Subject: Request Acknowledgement by Office of Public RecordsDate: October 8, 2012 7:38:53 AM PDT

Dear [UO Matters] 

Your request has been received by the Office of Public Records. The request has been assigned tracking # ‘2013-PRR-068’, please log into your account and review your submission.  

The application address is https://jwj-app1.uoregon.edu:8443/palMain.aspx.
Thank you,  

Office of Public Records

That’s right, you need to register your name with the PRO, in order to see the public records that the office has already provided to someone else. (With a few exceptions for docs in their “reading room”.) Because _______?


Third update: Here’s my link to a dropbox folder with the Oregon Hall air quality documents: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/9ii40vp6u83ulbi/5PWYD8YBnS. This took a few seconds to create, it’s a free account for me, and if I get any new documents it’s drag and drop. In contrast the system the UO Public Records office set up cost $25,000 and still does not work properly.

The documents I’ve received from the PRO and posted are the result of this request 8 weeks ago.

Subject: public records request, Oregon Hall air qualityDate: August 16, 2012 12:36:18 PM PDT
To: Lisa Thornton  

Hi Lisa 

This is a public records request for an itemized listing of money spent or budgeted to improve air quality in Oregon Hall, from July 1 2010 to the present.

Lisa Thornton at the PR office did next to nothing on this request for a month, then gave me a $600 estimate and refused a fee waiver request. Then after DeFazio got involved Dave Hubin folded and promised a fee wavier. Two weeks after that, we see what they were trying to charge $600 for – 3 mostly empty pieces of paper. 
This episode perfectly captures what the UO administration thinks about transparency. They will waste thousands and thousands of UO dollars on legal fees, staff time, and software to make the release of documents more difficult. The PRO budget is $240,000. But they won’t waive a few hundred dollars of fees, unless you publicly humiliate them first.


Another update: A commenter says:

great, so they can track who looks at the documents – sweet

My response:

I just got an email from Dave Hubin, asking me to post a note from him, saying that the Public Records Office “is not equipped to monitor downloads” or something to that effect. I asked him to post that here himself, but for some reason he is reluctant to do so. 

I don’t think Dave is correct. UO can log network use and presumably does so as a matter of course. And they are not obligated to tell UO employees who looks at those logs.

So, my understanding is that if someone on the UO system downloaded a document from the PR website, there would be a log which would show the IP address of the downloader and the document. If someone off the system went to the PR website, the log would show that as well – though it could be very difficult to match the IP with a name.

Would UO ever do this? [Would the public records office?] Well, UO’s previous PR Officer, Liz Denecke, once commented to me on the fact I had used the BANNER financial transparency tool to obtain some spending data. I had, and I was surprised she knew it. I asked her if she got that information from access logs. She would not tell me.

Update: Most of the planet uses dropbox to distribute documents. Simple, and free (or $100 a year if you’ve got a serious data jag). But not UO’s public records office. Liz Denecke paid someone $25,000 to write some weird code that enables them to post documents without letting google index them, and they are still trying to make it work. Talk about sunk costs! At 5 today I received this email explaining how to use their system to get the air quality public records. Good luck:

The records responsive to your request for “an itemized listing of money spent or budgeted to improve air quality in Oregon Hall, from July 1 2010 to present [8/16/12]” have been posted to the Public Records Reading Room, located on the website for the Office of Public Records (http://publicrecords.uoregon.edu/).

To view the records  click the “Request/Check Status Public Records” link on the bottom left hand corner of the website.  This will bring you to the Public Access Link (PAL) screen, from here select “Public Records Reading Room”. Select the document type “Oregon Hal” and search. For best results leave the asterisk in the “Document Name” field.

10/4/2012: This was sent to me by an anonymous OH worker, I believe it was something of a group effort. I was holding off until the PR office released the spending documents, which they have now promised to do at no cost. But it’s now 7 weeks since the request and no joy, so here goes.

You walk through the front doors and you are immediately hit with an odd odor and thick air,  you know you just walked into Oregon Hall. You climb the stairs and the air seems to get worse with each flight.

Air quality has been an issue in Oregon Hall for years, rumor has it, after the building was first built in 1971 that major renovations took place and special vents were added because Oregon Hall was labeled a “sick building.” 

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of Sick Building Syndrome:
“(SBS) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building. In contrast, the term “building related illness” (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants. 

A 1984 World Health Organization Committee report suggested that up to 30 percent of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be the subject of excessive complaints related to indoor air quality (IAQ). Often this condition is temporary, but some buildings have long-term problems. Frequently, problems result when a building is operated or maintained in a manner that is inconsistent with its original design or prescribed operating procedures. Sometimes indoor air problems are a result of poor building design or occupant activities.”

The EPA also describes the following symptoms that many individuals suffer from when working in a sick building: “Building occupants complain of symptoms associated with acute discomfort, e.g., headache; eye, nose, or throat irritation; dry cough; dry or itchy skin; dizziness and nausea; difficulty in concentrating; fatigue; and sensitivity to odors.”

Campus Operations has received complaints for years regarding the indoor air quality of Oregon Hall and they have ignored employees cries. The same symptoms listed by the EPA are the same complaints that Oregon Hall employs have suffered from for years. They have ignored employees who have headaches, nausea, dizziness, people who have visited numerous doctors, finding no relief. Campus Operations has ignored, stood back, insulted and humiliated individuals for years. Enough is enough.

 In late August, a letter was written to Peter DeFazio asking for his help regarding the dysfunctional system of Campus Operations, Environmental Health and Safety. Oregon Hall employees had asked for a Town Hall meeting over and over again and each time, Environmental Health and Safety declined such a meeting. 

Then, with two days notice, just a few days after Peter DeFazio has been contacted, a Town Hall Meeting was scheduled. The meeting was held in Willamette Hall, which I personally found interesting, if there was a problem you wanted to remedy, wouldn’t you meet at the source? Why didn’t Campus Operations want to meet in Oregon Hall, was the air to bad for them? Come, breath my air. Come, get sick, then perhaps you will succeed in finding the problem with Oregon Hall.

At first, I found the meeting to be rather ridiculous, Campus Operations on one side of the aisle, Oregon Hall employees on the other. There stood Jean Britton from Oregon OSHA ramble on about, “you should be on the look out for contaminants.” I wouldn’t know what a contaminate was if it walked up to me said “Hello,” and tried to buy me a drink. Here is the simple truth, I don’t work in Environmental Health and Safety, I work in Oregon Hall. The resolution to this issue, is not mine to find, that is for Environmental Health and Safety. 

One really interesting fact, when Jean described all the symptoms that Oregon Hall employees listed, they are the exact symptoms listed on the EPA website in association with Sick Building Syndrome. The more one reads about sick building syndromes, HVAC systems, the simple fact, may be that Oregon Hall has been remodeled to many times and the air intakes cannot function properly. Per the EPA website,  “Frequently, problems result when a building is operated or maintained in a manner that is inconsistent with its original design or prescribed operating procedures.” The building was  built forty years ago and has had numerous remodels through out the building.

Honestly, I left the meeting completely disillusioned and I felt hopeless, especially after noticing George Hecht leave the meeting before it was even over. Wasn’t this meeting important? But then, an apology email from Don Elting and George Hecht arrived and a flutter of hope washed over me, can there be fresh air in the horizon? I hope so. Apparently, an Oregon Hall website is going to be created and a survey will be offered to Oregon Hall employees to complete. The logic behind this,  is that with everyone completing the survey, the culprit can be found.

I believe change will only happen, if, and only if, all Oregon Hall employees stand together, stand firm and hold those in Campus Operations to their promise. If we get lazy, if we do not question, if we do nothing, we will be breathing the same horrible, thick, dirty, air. I do not know the long term affects breathing this air will do to us, but I know one thing, it will not end well, for any of us. Change must take place and the time is now.

-Holding my breath