By: Christopher Stango

University Resists Push For Disciplinary Information

The Daily Nebraskan student newspaper at the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln won a round Wednesday in its fight for the release of
the school’s disciplinary records. The newspaper first asked for the
records earlier this fall, but school officials, citing student
confidentiality, refused.

Under pressure from the newspaper, the university’s Office of Judicial
Affairs released this week the number and nature of disciplinary cases
from this semester, but did not reveal the names of students found
guilty of violent or sexual crimes.

The university said it is withholding this information because it is
part of a student’s educational record and therefore, private. However,
Congress amended the Higher Education Act in 1998 which now states that
violent crimes and sex offenses should not be considered part of a
student’s confidential education record.

The university reported only that it has records for 130 disciplinary
incidents involving 213 people from this semester. “It is a good step
to get that information out there, but we’re still pushing for the full
release of the records,” said Josh Funk, a Daily Nebraskan
reporter who’s been following the story.

The story began on Oct. 3 when Judicial Affairs Director Rosemary Blum
denied the paper’s request to view school records. “I can find no
evidence to support granting your request to view any university
disciplinary records,” she said. The state attorney general’s office
upheld the university’s decision on Nov. 13.

Since then, the Daily Nebraskan has gotten support from various
outside groups and influential people within the university. Public-

records experts with the Student Press Law Center and Nebraska’s
Society of Professional Journalists had been questioning the legal
basis of the university’s decision. John Bender, a UNL journalism
professor and SPJ Project Sunshine chairman, called the attorney
general’s argument circular. He said the university is defending its
policy simply by referring to the policy itself.

Student groups are also supporting the paper’s quest to make the
records public. Members of the Association of Students of the
University of Nebraska as well as Academic Senate leaders have been
interested in discussing the pros and cons of releasing these records.
“Any student has a right to privacy, but we have a right to know how
safe we are,” said Andy Faltin, last year’s student chairman of the
Judicial Board. The faculty chairman of the Judicial Board, Ron Hanson,
said he understands the paper’s argument, but his board is bound by
university policy.

Nationwide, groups like Security on Campus Inc. have been working to make
sure campus police and university disciplinary records are not buried in
students’ educational records.

Christopher Stango is an intern at E&P.

Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher.

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