Friday, May 09, 2008

University (non-)Relations

I would like to take this time to highlight the problems one student organization has been having with the Union Policy Board. This has extended into University Relations, as all of their records have apparently been transferred there.

Strategic Game Club has been denied an office in the latest office allocation, despite having filed all appropriate documents on time. In this, the latest round, the UPB held a meeting without notifying anyone who might be interested that it was taking place on May 7. The legality of such a move has yet to be determined, but the important part of that meeting, as far as this discussion is concerned, is that the club was removed from a previous allocation because of, among other things, "current and previous/continued lease-violations".

The idea of "current and previous/continued lease-violations" was news to the club, and London Burt, the Secretary, made a request for previous UPB meetings and any records of lease violations, so as to understand what things were being used against them. Here is the reply he received:
From: Amy R. Watson <>
Date: Thu, May 8, 2008 at 5:42 PM
Subject: Re: Open Records Request
To: London Burt <>

Hi London,

First, this message serves as receipt of your request for an audio copy of the meeting held on May 7th. I do not know if I am able to provide that to you in the next day or two, but I will certainly process your request as quickly as I can.

Second, I am still working on your first request, which I hope to complete soon. One clarification: you did ask for complaints, allegations, or investigations about lease violations about Strategic Gaming Club, but you did not provide the time frame of five years, so I will have to find out if there are any such documents that date back to 2003.

Also, one note. The reason this request takes some time is that in accordance with FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), I cannot release the personally identifiable information of students in conjunction with their activities in an organization. This means that the audio you are requesting as well as the copies of the UPB minutes will be heavily redacted, because personally identifiable information extends beyond just name. It includes other information that would make a student's identity easily traceable, and that includes a student's voice. So, the only portions of an audio recording of a UPB meeting that I can release are the voices of non-student employees who are members of the UPB or at a UPB meeting (for instance, Scott Gore or Tom Viel).
When I complete the request and provide the documents to you, I will provide a more detailed explanation as well as citation to the FERPA federal statute and regulations. I just want you to be prepared that the minutes and audio recording will have significant redactions.

Thanks, and I will be in touch as soon as I can.


Amy Watson
Communications Project Manager/
Public Records Custodian
Department of University Relations
(414) 229-5188
(414) 229-6261 fax
I understand that privacy issues regarding student organizations are to be respected. I would not want the records of random organizations thrown into the public record. However, the organization being considered here is the Union Policy Board, and the material being considered here is the audio record of the meetings at which they make policy for the UWM Union. A such, this is more of a government organization, as they have the power to vote on the Union budget and assign office space within the Union; and their membership, meetings, and activities are open to the public. Being willing only to publish non-students' comments (which make up 1/3 of the voting membership and 40% of overall membership) frustrates the idea of open meetings, especially since this is the committee in charge of a large portion of non-allocable student segregated fees. This unholy alliance of secrecy on the part of the University Relations department and the Union Policy Board in charge of large amounts of money (and half a floor of office space) is an open invitation to corruption.