By Dennis Hetzel, Executive Director

Dennis Hetzel

I urge ONA members to read this article from Al Tompkins at The Poytner Institute on the vast exemption to open records requirements that Penn State University has in Pennsylvania. It is a cautionary tale for Ohio on how excessive secrecy contributes to corruption and, in this case, terrible human tragedy.

Ohio is expected to consider legislation on “enterprise universities” later this year or next that could contain new restrictions on access to records of Ohio’s public universities. College presidents such as Gregory Williams at the University of Cincinnati and Gordon Gee at Ohio State University have raised this issue with state officials.

I can think of no compelling reason why an institution as powerful and important as a public university should be subject to less scrutiny than your local township or school district.  The myriad exemptions in existing law protect the information that legitimately should be closed.

The ONA has expressed opposition to new exemptions. Jim Petro, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents that oversees the university system, supports the ONA position and did not propose any new records restrictions in his initial plan earlier this year. However, the proposal would create new restrictions for open meetings involving state universities.

ONA members may wish to contact Petro and thank him for his support. You also should express opposition to any new public records exemptions for Ohio’s public universities as you encounter not only legislators but also officials from nearby state universities.  Let us know if you need talking points or additional information for meetings or editorials.

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