Transparency News 10/10/17

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

State and Local Stories

Thanks to our most recent annual conference sponsors

  • The Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University
  • Megan Rhyne

A split Richmond City Council on Monday rejected a proposal that would have asked the state legislature to amend the city charter and limit the mayor’s access to the council’s closed meetings. Under the proposal, put forth by Councilwomen Kimberly Gray and Kristen Larson, the Virginia General Assembly would have been asked to remove from the charter a provision that entitles the Richmond mayor or his or her representative a seat at the table when the council holds its closed meetings in accordance with the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
Richmond Times-Dispatch


Alice was right when she visited Wonderland: Things do get curiouser and curiouser. Today, we revisit the case of how a political group was able to obtain the name, address sand cellphone number of students at some Virginia colleges — but not others. We’re obviously strong advocates of open government, but lists of college students — with their addresses and phone numbers — aren’t exactly what we think of when we think of the public’s business. Some schools — notably the University of Virginia and George Mason University — said they didn’t have to make the lists available, citing the same Freedom of Information Act, plus certain federal law. How can there be one law but such different interpretations? The answer can be found in that citation of federal law, specifically the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. The U.S. Department of Education says that under that act “schools may disclose, without consent, ‘directory’ information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance.” Students are allowed to opt out of the directory, but often don’t understand how. Notice that’s a “may” and not a “shall” — so ultimately it’s up to the schools to decide whether to release the student directory information. Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act would appear to give schools an opportunity not to release these records.
The Roanoke Times

The protesters at William and Mary didn’t simply want to voice their opposition to Ms. Gastanaga’s message. They wanted to silence it altogether. An ACLU spokesman noted that some students “had submitted some tough questions in advance.” The protesters silenced those questions as well. It would be far too kind to describe this behavior as rude. The actions of these students, and the obvious pride they feel, are disgraceful. They come as an embarrassment to an exceptional institute of higher learning. The college, which issued a benign “tut tut” statement from president Taylor Reveley, is remiss if it failed to discipline the protesters. Their behavior was in clear violation of the school’s code of conduct, which prohibits students from “disrupting or obstructing … the functions or activities of the university (as well as activities conducted on the university’s property with its permission).” The code specifically outlines “the right to hear and study unpopular and controversial views on intellectual and public issues.“ Even without the official code of conduct, their behavior was a perversion of the most fundamental tenets of the educational mission.
Daily Press