Thursday, June 04, 2009

Learning Secrecy 101 on college campuses

An investigative report in the The Columbus Dispatch, "Secrecy 101", has gone beyond Ohio's borders to uncover colleges' public records policies concerning college sports. From Alabama to Oregon, the Dispatch reporters found examples of schools censoring player information, often citing a 35-year-old student privacy law whose author says it was intended to protect student grades, not athletic records.

From the Knoxville News Sentinel to the Wall Street Journal, other media are picking up on the story. "Unfortunately, that's the way secrecy laws work," News Sentinel editor Jack McElroy said. "Governments find it convenient to err on the side of confidentiality. So one result is that the $5 billion college sports establishment operates with little public scrutiny."

So far I haven't seen any follow-up in Virginia papers, although the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech are both mentioned in the Columbus, Ohio, paper.

"Across the country, many major-college athletic departments keep their NCAA troubles secret behind a thick veil of black ink or Wite-Out," the Dispatch reporters said. For example, under its interpretation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, one university wanted $35,330 to provide documents that were free of charge at more than half the 69 schools who responded to the reporters' record requests.

The Dispatch asked 119 schools for reports of NCAA violations, football players' summer-employment, players' "comp" ticket guests, and flight manifests for team air travel. Fifty schools, including the University of Virginia, either didn't provide information or wanted too much money to comply with the request, the paper said. Virginia Tech received good marks on some, but not all, of the record requests..


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