The national Society of Professional Journalists has selected Oklahoma State University as the winner of its third-annual Black Hole Award.
Oklahoma State was nominated by the Student Press Law Center for, among other things, ignoring the Clery Act in not notifying students, the public or its own police department that university officials were aware of the presence of an accused serial sex offender on campus. When asked why, OSU officials cited FERPA confidentiality requirements.
SPJ FOI Committee member Don Meyers said:
Using a federal education privacy law that pertains to grades to keep the campus in the dark about a sex offender who appears to be predatory is the textbook definition of egregious. If a municipal police force had pulled that shenanigan, they'd be in trouble on multiple fronts. FERPA was not meant to be a "Harry Potter"-like invisibility cloak that could turn any record that names a student into a protected document.”(The Board of Regents for Oklahoma State University and the OSU administration were given FOI Oklahoma's Black Hole Award in 2009 for "routinely conducting the public’s business outside the public’s view. Regents secretly discuss proposals among themselves and with college officials prior to public meetings.”
OSU administrators were faulted for claiming public business conducted on personal smart phones is secret, in contradiction to interpretations by attorneys general in several states. An Oklahoma attorney general opinion later said public business is public regardless of whether the government or the official owns the device used to create or maintain the record.)
For information on SPJ's Black Hole Award, contact Linda Petersen, chairman of the national SPJ FOI Committee, at 801-554-7513.