Posts Tagged ‘OSU’

Oklahoma State University wins SPJ’s National Black Hole Award

Oklahoma State University made history by becoming the first university to win SPJ’s not-so-coveted Black Hole Award.

The Cowboys were nominated by Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, for several offenses against open government, such as classifying parking tickets as information protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and identifying a sexual assault as a burglary on a Clery Act report.

But what put Oklahoma State over the top (or into the gutter, depending on your perspective), was its decision to hide behind FERPA to protect the “privacy” of a suspected serial sexual predator. OSU had four verified complaints from students at a fraternity that they were sexually assaulted by another student, yet the university did not notify police or alert students to the potential predator in their midst.

Instead, OSU handled the matter through a closed-door administrative hearing. University officials defended the action on the grounds that FERPA barred them from revealing the suspect’s name, even to the police.

FERPA was meant to protect academic records — college applications, test scores and transcripts — from prying eyes. It was not meant to be a “Harry Potter”-like cloak that hides any scrap of paper that contains a student’s name.

Oklahoma State now joins a rouge’s gallery that includes the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Human Services, and the Georgia, Wisconsin and Utah legislatures. The Utah Legislature had the distinction of winning the first national Black Hole award for railroading through the infamous HB477 in 2011, which would have gutted the state’s Government Records Access and Management Act.

That bill was repealed amid public fury, a petition drive to put legislation repealing the bill on the next ballot, front-page editorials in the state’s largest newspaper denouncing the bill and the national publicity generated by the Black Hole award.

FOI DAILY DOSE: ESPN sues Ohio State, Kundra talks top transparency principles

ESPN suing Ohio State for records withholding

ESPN has sued The Ohio State University for withholding records regarding an NCAA investigation into its football program.

The suit, filed Monday, accuses the university of breaking state public records law, according to The Associated Press. ESPN wants the Ohio Supreme Court to force OSU to release the requested public records and cover court fees.

The university allegedly cited a federal student-records privacy law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, that wasn’t applicable in this situation when it denied ESPN access to various records.

Requested records included emails between former Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel, who resigned in May, and a mentor to former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor, according to the Columbus Post-Dispatch’s

FERPA is designed to ensure student educational records remain confidential, but it is often misused to wrongfully keep records private. SPJ’s online Reporter’s Guide to FERPA has more information on dealing with records roadblocks and related issues.

Vivek Kundra lays out his key points on open government

Vivek Kundra, the Federal Chief Information Officer, testified before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Thursday on government transparency issues.

In his testimony, Kundra mentioned 10 key principles for transparency that he said would serve as helpful guidelines in assessing the federal government’s $3.7 trillion budget.

Kundra’s major points included the importance of using common data standards and ensuring equal access to data.

For more, read Kundra’s entire testimony. You can also see his 10 principles listed without the extra information in this Sunlight Foundation blog post.

Kundra plans to leave his government position in August for a Harvard University Fellowship.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email ( or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).



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