Requests made at Shawnee State University mostly directed to legal counsel
By: Samuel Howard
Digital Managing Editor for The Post
Auditors from the Ohio Universities Public Records Audit requested five records from Shawnee State University in late January.
The five requests at Shawnee State had a total compliance rate of 80 percent, well above the statewide figure. One request was obstructed. The audit’s goal was to test compliance with Ohio’s Sunshine Laws at the state’s public universities. Compliance consisted of either getting the record outright or being referred to Shawnee State’s legal department.
Sarah Brown, Shawnee State’s public records officer, attributed part of her university’s performance to a top-down education she offers to employees on records compliance. Part of that also includes reaching out to requesters. Brown noted that there are signs on campus with instructions on how to make a records request.
“I think that we have a good process,” Brown said. “We have a strong, clear policy, a strong, clear procedure.”
The only obstructed request asked for the list of university students found responsible of committing a violent crime during the 2014-2015 academic year. An auditor requested the information at Shawnee State’s Department of Public Safety.
In that instance, a public safety officer asked the auditor to fill out a form with their name, phone number and address, because the public records official was not in the office when the request was made.
Ohio’s Sunshine Laws do not require requesters to make written requests for records. They also are not required to identify themselves while making a request. Further, requesters are not required to indicate a reason for asking records in “most circumstances,” unless another law specifically requires otherwise.
Three workers at Shawnee State asked auditors to identify themselves, either by occupation or name, though only at the public Safety Department could the auditor not access a record after not identifying themselves.