In a local newspaper’s story about a former chancellor’s leave of absence, one learns that information about her leave came five months after a public records request:
Tuesday marked five months since The Gazette filed an open records request with UW-W for information on Kopper’s leave during the fall semester, when she previously had plans to teach.
After The Gazette notified the university this week about a pending story on the unfulfilled request and sought comment, the UW-W’s public records custodian, Alexandra Stokes, sent the records.
Honest to goodness. The story doesn’t say what efforts the paper made during that time to obtain the information. It seems that it did nothing until – nearly half a year later – the paper told a UW-Whitewater official that a follow-up story was about to land.
Public records requests are not mere entreaties – they are requests under Wisconsin law.
The university defiantly withheld too long, and the newspaper diffidently waited too long.
See 4 Points About Public Records Requests (‘Residents, bloggers, and community groups that seek information under a public records law should be prepared to defend that request at law. One hopes that won’t be necessary, but rights are more than hopes, and so one should think ahead, even before a request is submitted: what’s next at law if officials obstruct this request? See, along these lines, Steps for Blogging on a Policy or Proposal‘).
Five months’ time was far too long to wait.
Sadly, this article points out, yet again, how badly the entire Kopper affair has been handled. However, I think an equally compelling side to this revelation is the fact that the “Whitewater Banner” published a link to the story on its front page. This would have been unheard of a few months ago when the “Banner” functioned as a clueless mouthpiece for the University.
University messaging almost always underperforms. The school is the largest organization in town (public or private), but it delivers messaging that’s short-term, tactical, and almost comically situational. Any mom-and-pop operation could do as well, if not better.
There is, however, another notable aspect to university communications – no matter how short-term, tactical, or almost comically situational the message is, university officials expect others to accept that message unquestioningly.