Utah keeps university presidential search process closed

UTAH — The Utah chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists’ efforts to open the presidential selection process at the University of Utah have been brought to a halt.

The State Records Committee ruled in June that the school was exempt from disclosing information about presidential candidates.

In Utah, if an agency refuses to disclose records, the decision can be brought before the State Records Committee instead of a district court, and does not require the representation of an attorney. If the State Records Committee rejects an appeal, it can still be taken to court.

Joel Campbell, project sunshine chair for Utah SPJ, said the committee relied on an exemption to the state open records law to allow for the closed searches.

“Basically the higher education people staged a filibuster,” Campbell said. “They paraded all of these people out to say how terrible an open presidential search would be, and the records committee went along with that.”

Campbell said Utah SPJ and the national SPJ Legal Defense Fund do not have the resources to take the decision to district court.

“The next step is to go back to our board and talk about it,” he said. “The problem will be that it will probably be a precedent setting decision.”

With support from other Utah media or Utah legislators, Campbell said the opening of presidential searches could be pursued further in the future.