I HATE that this came out on the late afternoon of State’s huge game with Florida State…but, we have more than five FSU-related entries on the front page of the blog and you can surf and read to your heart’s content.
We are going to send the traffic on this to the Daily Tar Heel because of the legitimately fantastic work they’ve done covering their own school. They deserve to know that outsiders are impressed with them. (Link)
Media organizations file suit against UNC officials
Daily Tar Heel among plaintiffs
Four top UNC officials have been named as defendants in a lawsuit filed Thursday by a coalition of eight news organizations seeking access to public records.
At issue are records relating to the University’s ongoing investigation of improper relationships with athletic agents and academic misconduct surrounding the football team.
When refusing the records requests made under the N.C. public records law, the University has cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal student privacy law known as FERPA.
The plaintiffs, led by The Daily Tar Heel and The (Raleigh) News & Observer, believe UNC is misusing the privacy law in order to withhold records that could prove embarrassing.
[snip of the meat so that you can click to article]
Named as defendants in the suit are Davis, Baddour, Director of Public Safety Jeff McCracken and Chancellor Holden Thorp. The four men are considered the “custodians” of the records in question under the state law.
“By using an overly broad interpretation of the law to withhold records, University officials are inciting speculation that there is something to hide and that they value protecting that information more than they value the public’s trust,” DTH Editor-in-Chief Sarah Frier said.
The plaintiffs have filed numerous records requests for these and other records beginning in early August. The University has consistently cited FERPA when denying requests.
UNC has released redacted copies of some of the records. Phone records for Baddour, Blake and Davis were released in September, and the University provided records identifying three people who gave illegal benefits to players on Friday. In both cases, the records were heavily redacted to avoid identifying the student-athletes involved.
FERPA law was intended to prevent schools from sharing sensitive student information, such as grades, with others. The 1974 law also gives students a right to inspect their educational records.
SFN will have more on this issue – and in a more coherent format – in the coming day(s). But, please know that we’ve been waiting for the day that we could run this story!
For months we’ve heard stories of the uncooperative nature coming from UNC’s administration and their refusal to comply with the media’s Freedom of Information Act Requests. It seems the ‘good’ folks at Carolina who have been quick to run into press conferences and radio interviews to tell everyone of their greatness and openness (while also not remotely answering any questions) would much rather talk about transparency and cooperation than actually deliver it. I’m just surprised we didn’t see more editorials and public outcry about the topic before the lawsuits were filed.
Ahhh…’to seem, rather than to be.’ It really is the ‘Carolina Way’.
You can click here for the N&O’s article.
The two McClatchy newspapers joined forces with the DTH Media Corp., which publishes the UNC-CH student newspaper the Daily Tar Heel; News 14 Carolina, a cable TV station operated by Time Warner Entertainment-Advance/Newhouse Partnership; WTVD Television; Capitol Broadcasting; the Associated Press; and, Media General Operations.
The aforementioned media outlets party to the lawsuit are clearly positioned to take the high ground and now can prove to the public that they were/are interested, engaged and working towards covering the story and digging for the truth. Anyone who hasn’t at least filed a FOIA request obviously has no interest in digging for the truth. (Imagine my shock that we didn’t see Fox Sports’ Andrew Jones’ name on the list.)
THE BUS RUNNETH OVER
Didn’t you find it fascinatingly odd that the University was able to so quickly supply damning portions of John Blake’s phone records [coincidentally] RIGHT BEFORE the season started and his sudden departure? How would you choose to describe the fact that the only ‘negative’ information to this point that hasn’t violated any of UNC’s fabricated legal positions is information that so neatly wraps up a single rogue coach who took advantage of his role and has been set up to be the primary fall guy?
5:55 Update: Right on cue with my ^previous comments about John Blake, the News & Observer further substantiates UNC’s strategy to isolate and publicly paint Blake as ‘the guy’ in all of this.
The newspapers were able to use a narrow, targeted search of phone records to prove frequent contact between Blake and agent Gary Wichard, and that Blake was speaking with family members of highly regarded Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and then immediately contacting Wichard.
But the school redacted almost all of the numbers on Blake’s phone records, citing student privacy, privacy of numbers of other employees’ personal phones, and privacy of the phone numbers of prospective students.
Finally! THE TRUTH!!! So, UNC redacted…EVERYTHING! You didn’t even know this part yet, did you? This is a big part of the story — Carolina hasn’t even released the phone records that you previously thought they had released. The ONLY phone calls released were specifically designed to set up John Blake and throw him under the bus. Must I remind you?
It gets better. Erin E. Summers of WRAL’s website tweeted that:
#UNC said more than 80 public records requests related to the football investigation have been filed
Thorp authorized hiring additional staff to help meet demand for reviewing & responding to football-related public records requests
How do you like your tax dollars at work?
So, exactly what have these new hires been doing? As evidenced by the lawsuit, UNC hasn’t complied with any of the FOIA requests. But, they’ve hired extra people…to help comply with the FOIA requests? God I hope that all of these expenses are being charged to UNC’s athletics department that doesn’t operate with tax dollars (if you ignore the millions of dollars of subsidies that the legislature slides to the Dean E. Smith Center).
UNC, while proclaiming its desire to be transparent and work with everyone to clean up this mess, has the time, human resources and money to meticulously go through thousands of phone calls and redact all of the phone numbers except a very targeted set of calls that serve the obvious and specific purpose of basically crafting a single story related to Blake and his involvement with Wichard and Suh.
Obviously, we don’t yet know what set of stories are told by the phone records that UNC is hiding in their blatant objection to comply with the law?
One quick note for our friends in the media — have you also requested records for other Assistant Coaches at UNC? For example, what about this guy? Notice any previous employment and past relationships that may be of particular interest?
You know…there were rumors last week that the NCAA was back in town wanting to talk to some other assistant coaches about some ‘irregularities’ they found. I wonder which coaches? I wonder if phone records could help people do some investigating? I wonder what students’ rights the release of those phone records would violate?
Lastly, there are A LOT of folks around the ACC territories that would like to have a little more insight into the frequency and nature of Blake (and other Carolina coaches’) communications with former Hargrave Head Coach, Robert Prunty. Think that could be on some of those records?