Two-year battle over access to Texas Web cameras ends

Student wanted administration to acknowledge presence of Web cams in classrooms

TEXAS -- A case involving the release of records about Web cameras in University of Texas at Austin classrooms has been settled after more than two years of litigation.

The case, The University of Texas at Austin and University of Texas System v. Greg Abbott, Attorney General of Texas, reached a settlement that only required the university to disclose certain portions of documents to which Abbott had originally granted full access to.

In 2004, Mark Miller, a sophomore at University of Texas at Austin, requested information about the existence of Web cameras in classrooms. Miller said he did not receive an adequate response from the school, and the attorney general’s office issued an opinion stating that all the documents in question were public.

A month later, the university filed a case against the Attorney General to avoid disclosing information that Steven Kraal, University of Texas at Austin associate vice president of campus planning and facilities management, labeled “a significant asset that can be compromised if the information was made generally available.”

The case, which forced the attorney general’s office to represent both sides, seemed unusual, but Thomas Kelley, spokesman for the attorney general, said the case was normal in that two different departments within the attorney general’s office handled each side.

Two years later, UT officially granted access to security system documents limited by Abbott’s specifications.

Under the settlement, the university removed certain information from the documents, which included specifications and location of UT security systems in particular buildings.

Miller, who was unaware of the recent developments, said he had unofficially viewed the complete documents prior to the recent settlement, but is now focused on other things.

“I just wanted them to officially say, "Yes, we have Web cams in the classrooms,’” Miller said.

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