The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board
“I refuse to believe that a campus is safer by refusing to be transparent on sexual assault.”
Attorney General Andy Beshear gave this firm statement Monday to one of our reporters in discussing one of the most troublesome issues plaguing Kentucky and its higher education institutions today: student newspapers and Open Records laws.
Currently, three Kentucky universities (Western Kentucky University, Kentucky State and University of Kentucky) are in the midst of lawsuits with their student newspapers involving obtaining information about campus-related sexual assault cases.
The Kentucky Kernel, for example, requested documents in order to accurately cover sexual assault stories in an honest and timely manner. According to the Open Records Act of 1992, the journalists had every right to inquire about the documents and should have been granted access to them, even if that meant student names would be redacted.
The problem? The universities denied the Kernel’s access to the documents under the guise that releasing information would violate FERPA laws.
That’s where Beshear comes in.
After the student paper appealed the document denials to Beshear’s office, the office requested the colleges turn over the documents in question for a private analysis, only to determine if the material would violate laws.
In a shockingly bold – and seemingly unlawful – move, the universities denied Beshear’s office access.
If that doesn’t point to something fishy, we’re not sure what does.
Thankfully, Beshear, who has long supported students and their concerns with higher education, is fighting for transparency and integrity – not to mention fulfilling the law.
What does it say about a university if administrators deny the state to review information over faculty-initiated sexual misconduct?
Could this possibly be a situation of a university conducting shady business in order to keep up appearances and keep the cash flow of doe-eyed freshmen coming in? Surely not – that doesn’t sound anything like university politics.
Coincidentally, March 12 commemorated the beginning of Sunshine Week, which reminds citizens that any properly functioning and healthy democracy thrives on its people having access to information about institutions and leaders.
An editorial from the Lexington Herald-Leader noted the behavior of these university officials have made it clear they believe their institutions are above the law. That opinion is frighteningly on the money – the danger we face as students under controlling and secretive university regimes is not to be taken lightly.
It’s unclear how long it will take for the three Kentucky universities on the hot seats to surrender and release information, but one thing’s for sure: in dealing with human well-being and the integrity of our institutions, we have no other choice as student journalists than to keep fighting for truth. The law – our freedoms – must be upheld. The truth must triumph.