Our View: Continuing TransparencyBy CW Editorial Board | 11/24/2014 8:45am
In recent years, The University of Alabama’s administration has shown a lack of commitment to having an open, transparent dialogue on campus. Whenever anything happens that might damage the University’s reputation, the University’s media relations team has defaulted to inaction while attempting to silence public discussions.
The Crimson White has an obligation to encourage open debate on campus, but as we demand transparency from the University, so too must we hold ourselves to the same standards of accountability. Last year, we began publishing the record requests we sent to the University, local police agencies and other government organizations.
We base these requests on Alabama’s public records laws, which state in part, “Every citizen has a right to inspect and take a copy of any public writing of this state, except as otherwise expressly provided by statute.” The state code lists library records, safety plans, critical infrastructure information and information that might compromise the safety of an individual as exempt from open records requests, but the administration has rarely cited any such exemptions when it withholds information. The University of Alabama, being of the state and for the state, should and must comply with these laws.
This semester it has become clear that the University’s opposition to transparency affects more than The Crimson White. Now, we are partnering with WVUA-FM to include their open records requests on the second page of our print edition and on our website. As members of student media, we wish to present a united front against the University’s lack of transparency. We will not sit idly by and allow ourselves to be ignored or disregarded.
The Crimson White requested documents pertaining to two UAPD advisories sent to students about two incidents that allegedly occurred off campus. Both of these advisories were later withdrawn when UAPD said the victims admitted that the events described did not occur. The University responded that, “the only public documents that are responsive to your request are the advisories themselves.” When WVUA-FM requested documents pertaining to UAPD’s search of Tutwiler Hall on Sept. 21, media relations responded that there were no documents responsive to their request.
Page 2 of today’s The Crimson White features a box titled “Open Records Requests,” and a similar feature is available on The Crimson White’s website. This system provides details on the information requested, the Crimson White or WVUA-FM staff member who requested it, the person from whom the information was requested, the date it was requested, the status of the request and the reason for the status, if applicable.
We have a responsibility to seek truth and report it as the watchdogs for this University. When the University’s media relations stonewall us in our pursuit of information, it impairs our ability to provide complete reporting. We will hold the administration and ourselves accountable, and we will not simply sit by and allow the University to build barriers against transparency.
Our View is the consensus of The Crimson White Editorial Board.