Everything we know about UO's record release saga

The University of Oregon’s records release garnered national attention this week. UO economics professor Bill Harbaugh was identified as the recipient of 22,000 pages of records that the university got back in #LibraryGate.

“The archives contain legal opinions and Interim President Scott Coltrane refuses to make those public,” Harbaugh said. “I can only imagine why.”

In an email to staff on Jan. 20, Coltrane said that the records had been illegally released, however, it is unclear what laws, if any, were violated.

UO placed two librarians on administrative leave pending an investigation. The Oregonian identified the librarians as Kira Homo and James Fox, UO Senior Director of Public Affairs Communications Tobin Klinger could not confirm or deny the names of the librarians.

Klinger said that the UO has reason to believe that the record released are confidential under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, ORS 351.065 and ORS 192.501-502. Klinger gave no information as to what the records are or why they could violate privacy laws.

FERPA was signed into law in 1974 to protect the privacy of student records. According to the US Department of Education, FERPA gives students and their parents the right to review and correct education records. Under FERPA, personally identifiable information that is not “directory information” is confidential.

The UO’s Student Records Privacy Policy defines directory information as facts such as a student’s full name, addresses, phone number, email, enrollment status, degrees and credit hours. Directory information does not include grades and other personal information.

ORS 192.501-502 lists public records that are exempt from disclosure, “unless the public interest requires disclosure in the particular instance.”

Harbaugh has not commented on the records specifics. At this time it is unclear if the publication of records serve the public interest.

Doug Blandy, Senior Vice Provost of Academic Affairs, wrote a letter to Harbaugh saying that the records contain student, faculty and other employee information and asking him to return the records and remove any documents from the internet by Jan. 22. Vice Provost Frances Bronet announced on the university website Wednesday that the documents had been returned. Bronet said that the university hired an independent law firm to investigate the records disclosure.

According to Coltrane’s email, the records did not contain any social security numbers, medical information or financial information, but did contain confidential information.

On Jan. 4 Harbaugh titled a blog post, “The UO administration’s secret plan to abolish the UO Senate.” The post linked to one of the documents in question, a memo between former UO general council Randy Geller and former interim president Bob Berdahl. The front page of the memo says, “attorney-client communication confidential and privileged” in capital letters. The memo discussed eliminating the UO Senate and other advisory groups.

Harbaugh’s long and contentious relationship with university administrators is well documented on UO Matters. Harbaugh’s posts have taken aim at athletics, administrators and presidents.

The lingering question is, will Harbaugh face legal consequences if more of the records are released?

Scott Greenstone contributed to this post.

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Alexandra Wallachy

Alexandra Wallachy

Alex is a head correspondent at the Emerald focusing on higher education and student government. She is also a producer for the Emerald Podcast Network and a huge fan of the Daily Show.