Eugene Register-Guard Calls Out University of Oregon For Claiming Release of Records Was Illegal

University's efforts to attack those following the law sounds a bit Orwellian.

Administrators at the University of Oregon are in a tizzy because its archivists released 22,000 documents to a professor who had requested them. The school has claimed the release of the records was illegal or "unlawful" and has launched an investigation into two archivists who gave out the records.

The records, it turns out, were in the UO Archives, and records in that trove are public. There's good reason for the UO to claim otherwise: The release revealed at least one memo in which a UO lawyer plotted ways to squelch the influence of the university faculty and they voted to form a union.

Like most states, Oregon has a public records law, which says that documents "prepared, owned, used or retained," by a public body—such as the University of Oregon—are a public record and should be available for inspection by any member of the public. Many public bodies and public officials dislike scrutiny, however, and so since the public records law was passed 1973, they have chipped away at it, convincing lawmakers to add exemptions. In other cases, public officials stonewall members of the public, including the press, and try to make information that rightly belongs to the public as inaccessible as possible.

The UO's use of the word "unlawful" brings to mind an observation George Orwell made in 1946 but that is no less relevant today.

the defence of the indefensible
Eugene Register-Guard