U of O says it will charge KATU hundreds of dollars for documents

EUGENE, Ore. - An emeritus law professor who spoke with KATU's On Your Side Investigators now says the University of Oregon retaliated against him.

In a special report by KATU on Monday, Cheyney Ryan criticized UO's handling of the March alleged sex assault case involving three basketball players.

In a letter sent to UO alumni Tuesday, the school said in part that KATU misrepresented Ryan's expertise. But Ryan says KATU did not and he says the school has some explaining to do.

Getting any kind of information out of UO can be a challenge, as KATU's On Your Side Investigators have discovered, but the school is offering up some data KATU has asked forfor a price.

Instead of sending KATU a big pile of blacked out documents like UO has done in the past, now the school is asking for cold hard cash for information KATU's requested

How much cash? About $800.

To put that in perspective, for about the same amount of money you can get four new iPhones, feed a family of four for a month, or rent an apartment in any number of locations for a month.

KATU filed a public records request last month for information needed for a special report on UO's handling of that March alleged sex assault case involving three basketball players. In that request, KATU asked for electronic communications between high-ranking faculty members regarding academics, revenue and expense data, and other topics.

The school sent KATU a reply last week saying it could give us the information requested, but it would cost $779.

"The idea that it would cost 700-some dollars to obtain a copy of already generated documents is insane," said Adam Goldstein, who knows a lot about what it's like to try to get information from schools.

Goldstein's an attorney with the Student Press Law Center, which helps journalists nationwide cover education stories.

"This is clearly information the university has," Goldstein said. "It's not that they have to generate it."

UO says the charge includes staff costs for locating and gathering the records and may include the cost of time spent by a lawyer to review them. They say they gave KATU a 20 percent discount.

Regarding that pile of more than 300 blacked-out emails UO gave KATU back in May, Goldstein said, "a big pile of blacked-out documents does not sound like a sincere attempt to comply with the requirements of FERPA."

What's FERPA?

It stands for the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a law that's meant to keep student records private. But schools like UO often use it like a brick wall to keep journalists from getting information, and Goldstein says that's not what it's meant for.

"FERPA only requires that personally identifiable information be redacted," Goldstein said. "There's lots of stuff you would get in these documents that wouldn't identify anything about the students A lot of these things are gonna be communications between administrators."

As for Ryan, UO says he's retired, but Professor Ryan says he's an emeritus professor, which means he's retired but he still does some work for the school.

Ryan is a nationally recognized expert on Title IX, the law that protects students from sexual violence and harassment. He's advised Yale University on the topic and that's one of the reasons KATU talked with him.

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