U. of Kentucky, paper reach deal on release of employee records

KENTUCKY ‘ University of Kentucky officials have released employee records previously denied to the student newspaper after being threatened with a lawsuit in Fayette County Circuit Court.

While employees’ identities will remain undisclosed, their race, gender and ages will be released in a database made available to the Kentucky Kernal.

Wanting to avoid a lawsuit, the administration offered a compromise to the newspaper. If the Kernel discovers the identity of an employee, it may not publish race, gender or age without consent of the individual or other sources, said Kim Greene, attorney for the Kernel.

‘We worked out a compromise,’ said Jack Blanton, senior vice president of administration for the university. ‘The newspaper agreed it wouldn’t print the tabular information, but if they wanted to interview these people face to face and get the information from them, we would be fine with that.’

While the Kernel is pleased with the compromise, news editor Scott Sloan said the university’s request to not publish some information is unnecessary.

‘Race and gender as privacy issues is ridiculous,’ Sloan said. ‘Everyone’s race and gender is evident.’

While the administration was ‘confident’ it could have won in a court case, it wanted to keep a low profile from the Kentucky media.

‘It became an issue in the major news outlets,’ Blanton said. ‘We didn’t want to go through that kind of anguish.’

The Kernel, too, admitted that the compromise is much better than the alternative.

‘It could have been a long battle ‘ we could have sat there for two years,’ Sloan said.

Originally the university disclosed employees’ salaries and names, but denied race, gender and age information.

‘The newspaper decided to file a lawsuit because they believe that these are public employee records,’ Blanton said. ‘We’re more concerned with protecting the privacy concerns of our employees.’

The Kentucky Attorney General’s office upheld the university’s decision.

The possibility of a lawsuit was spurred by an open-records request submitted to the university by Kernel summer editor Sloan, who was attempting to gain access to a database detailing the name, gender, race, date of birth, salary and job title of all university employees. The idea came from the formation of two new commissions formed by the university’s president, one on the status of women employees and another on the status of employee diversity.

‘I thought we should examine the state of diversity and status of women ourselves rather than listen to what the committee would have told us,’ Sloan said. ‘It’s better for the public to see the data rather than just hear what the university, who has a stake in it, has to say.’