Reporter uses law to force opening of records after Univ. of New Hampshire student's death





NEW HAMPSHIRE — After a reporter for a community newspaper confronted the University of New Hampshire with a state Freedom of Information Act request, administrators listened to their lawyers.

They decided to release an incident report relating to the death of a UNH sophomore who fell from his fraternity house roof in August 1996.

The FOIA request was filed by Derek Rose, a reporter for the Manchester Union Leader, after the university issued a press release saying it would not release the report to the media or the public.

“[The report] is an internal report from which UNH’s judicial officer can draw up charges against Acacia fraternity, if warranted” the school’s news bureau director, Kim Billings, was quoted as saying.

Billings later said the school’s legal counsel told administrators that they could not keep the document private without violating the state open records law, and so they decided to release it.

In the wake of the death, the school has forced the fraternity to disband, and the parents of the student are reportedly suing previous members of the fraternity, with the case pending in state court.


reports, Spring 1997