UA e-mail to faculty vague, innacurate

“A Special Edition e-mail digest was sent out Monday informing all faculty and staff that the Buchtelite had submitted a public records request Oct. 17 for their home and cell phone numbers. The e-mail stated that the information would be used for student writers to call employees directly in the evening for interviews.”

A Special Edition e-mail digest was sent out Monday informing all faculty and staff that the Buchtelite had submitted a public records request Oct. 17 for their home and cell phone numbers.

The e-mail stated that the information would be used for student writers to call employees directly in the evening for interviews. While this information is accurate to some extent, it is vague and incomplete.

The Buchtelite will use the information selectively, only under extreme circumstances and as a last resort when repeated efforts to contact faculty or staff for their comments over a period of time are unsuccessful.

Those occurrences will be extremely rare.

The Buchtelite is not planning to publish the information and will not distribute the list, even among its own staff. The list will only be available to the editor in chief and the adviser and the information will only be used in rare and extreme circumstances.

If we need to call a faculty or staff member for comment on an important story, it will be at a reasonable hour – at no point will anyone’s privacy be violated. The list will be used as an important journalistic tool – the opportunity for fair comment on stories of importance by the expert members of the University of Akron faculty and staff. The information was requested because it has become difficult to get in contact with certain sources through regular channels.

Because the university is publicly funded, the information in the list obtained by the Buchtelite is a public record. Anyone has the legal right to obtain this information, whether a news organization or private individual. According to Ohio’s Open Records law, Ohio has chosen to make public records available based on principles of democracy.

Moreover, Ohio’s highest court has expressly cautioned public officials (which includes university officials) that the records in their possession belong to the people.

The university felt the need to let faculty and staff know that the Buchtelite requested this information, yet did not feel the need to inform anyone that, as public employees, this information is subject to Ohio’s Open Records laws.

All public records are accessible to anyone, said Akron Beacon Journal in-house attorney Karen Chuparkoff-Lefton. It doesn’t matter if you’re the press. If it’s a public record, it is owned by the people. That is yours and you can get it.

University spokesman Ken Torisky said the e-mail was sent as a courtesy to staff members, rather than something meant to alarm them, despite the use of a Special Edition email, normally used to inform faculty and staff of recent criminal activity around the campus as well building closures and other related information, to alert them.

I wouldn’t call it a threat at all, Torisky said. It’s more of a service to the faculty and staff that might be affected just as if the power goes out in a building and we need to let people know what’s going on so they can be informed.

It’s hard not to perceive the e-mail as a retaliatory gesture toward the Buchtelite, meant to create a negative impression of a legitimate request for public information UA is obligated to provide. What this e-mail has done, more than anything, is put UA employees on notice, and created the impression that their personal information has been or will be disseminated or used irresponsibly.

That is simply not the case. And we hope that, by its actions, the university has not created unnecessary feelings of ill will between the Buchtelite and the University of Akron faculty and staff.