U. of Tennessee refuses to release records


Two proposed state bills could mean more public access





\nTENNESSEE - University of Tennessee administrators are\ncontinuing to hide behind outdated laws, refusing to release records\nof university judicial proceedings in accordance with last year's\namendments to the Higher Education Act, say access advocates.

The student newspaper at the University of Tennessee's Martin\ncampus and the nonprofit organization Security on Campus have\nboth been denied access to records describing the outcome of disciplinary\nproceedings at school. Last year Congress amended federal law\nto make clear that schools could release the outcome of disciplinary\nproceedings involving violent crimes or non-forcible sex offenses.\nThose seeking access claim the state open records law requires\nthe records to be public.

"The University interprets State law to preclude the disclosure\nof personally identifiable information contained in student disciplinary\nrecords, even those dealing with crimes of violence or non-forcible\nsex offenses," Timothy Rogers, the acting vice chancellor\nfor student affairs wrote in response to an information request\nmade by Security on Campus' Daniel Carter.

Carter says the refusal of the university to release these records\ncould pose a danger to other students. But he is involved in\nsupporting two bills in the state legislature that would explicitly\npermit schools to release disciplinary records relating to criminal\nbehavior.

Sen. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Jim Boyer R-Corryton,\nare sponsoring similar bills that are working their way through\njudiciary and education committees.

"The secrecy that surrounds all these proceedings is dying\na slow death," Carter said.

The controversy over the release of University of Tennessee at\nMartin records began after several students were involved in a\nshooting on campus in the beginning of the school year. Although\nno one was hurt, disciplinary action was taken against three students.

A local newspaper reported on the incident, but when the University\nof Tennessee at Martin's student paper, The Pacer, requested\ninformation on final disciplinary actions, the university refused\nto provide details.\n


reports, Spring 1999