BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — The University of Kentucky’s decision to sue its student newspaper is drawing heavy criticism by some of the members of the school’s Board of Trustees.
The Courier-Journal reports (http://cjky.it/2cO5YD4 ) that UK President Eli Capilouto defended the move during a trustees’ meeting in Bowling Green on Friday, arguing that the school has a responsibility to protect victims’ privacy.
“The bottom line for me is this: Losing a case in court along with the attendant headlines worries me much less than not doing everything I can to fight for the privacy and confidentiality of those victim survivors,” Capilouto told the trustees.
The university is appealing a decision by state Attorney General Andy Beshear that the school violated the state’s open-records law by withholding documents about a professor’s sexual harassment case from the student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel.
Under state law, the AG’s opinions can be appealed, but the attorney general cannot be named as a party in the suit. The university has consistently said its dispute is with Beshear, not the campus newspaper.
Trustee David Hawpe, a former Courier-Journal editor, called the university’s position “unwise and unfair.”
“Secrecy leaves people in doubt about how the university is operating,” he said.
Chairman Britt Brockman said the board first discussed the Kernel lawsuit during a closed executive session on Friday morning but the issue came up again in open session later in the day.
Beshear said earlier in the week that that UK’s lawsuit “stabs at the very heart” of the state’s open-records law and that he will ask a judge to let him intervene after the university refused to let his office review the records withheld from the Kernel.
The case started this summer when the Kernel published a story about a professor who resigned from UK in February amid a sexual-harassment investigation.
UK provided its settlement agreement with the professor to the campus newspaper under the open-records law but refused to provide any investigative documents, citing the same argument Blanton offered Wednesday. The Kernel appealed to Beshear’s office.
Trustee Lee Blonder, a faculty representative on the board, said the university has mishandled the case.
“The situation has gone national,” she said. “I think that this has to become, at some point after it plays out, a teaching moment for all of us.”
Trustee Mark Bryant argued that the university could redact victims’ names before releasing the information that has been requested.
“What do we have to hide?” Bryant asked.
Brockman, the board’s chair, suggested after the meeting that the critics of the lawsuit make up a small minority of the trustees.
Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com