Ohio University partially compliant in statewide public records audit
By: Taylor Maple
For The Post
Public records, including those held by a public university, are meant to be open to all citizens, regardless of their identity, affiliation or purpose for seeking the records out.
As part of a statewide audit of Ohio public universities, The Post requested five public records from Ohio University with only partial success, to see how university officials across the state handled the distribution of these public records.
Students from seven universities, including OU, remained unidentified and did not tell officials they were reporters as they asked for the same records from 12 public universities in Ohio.
Of the records requested at OU, three were complied with by officials who directed auditors to OU’s Office of Legal Affairs to pursue the records further. The other two requests were denied or obstructed. None of the participating individuals at OU received a record on the day of the audit, which was conducted Jan. 29.
OU’s General Counsel John Biancamano did not respond to multiple requests for comment. President Roderick McDavis could also not be reached for comment.
The denied record was that of names of •students found responsible for a violent crime during the 2014-15 academic year. University officials in the office dealing with this request told the auditor that the records requested were protected from the public under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA.
But violent crime records would not be protected under the act.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, FERPA is meant to ensure students and parents of students may obtain access to the student’s educational records and challenge the content or release of such records to third parties.
In a 2014 investigation of crime and punishment on U.S. college campuses, the Columbus Dispatch successfully requested the same record from most Ohio public universities, including OU.
FERPA expressly says that colleges may publicly release the names of students found responsible for committing an act of violence, the punishments they received and the date of the sanctions, according to the Dispatch report.
During the January audit, officials asked the auditor requesting this record what the purpose of the request was, asked them to define “open record,” and stated that none of the records in the office are public.
Another request, that of the 2014-15 operating budget of OU’s Patton College of Education, was not immediately granted at the office. The auditor was asked by workers in the office to go online and fill out a form to request the records.