University of Oregon students criticize university for using FERPA to ‘frivolously’ avoid answering questions about sexual assault allegations involving athletes

The front page of today’s Daily Emerald is a powerful one:

The issue is a timely one for the University of Oregon student newspaper — this week, it came to light that three basketball players were accused in March of sexually assaulting a woman at an off-campus party and then later at one of the players’ apartments. The university and police learned of the allegations in March, and the Daily Emerald and other media have questioned why the players were allowed to continue playing through the end of the season (their suspensions were announced Monday, the same day the district attorney’s office announced it did not plan to charge any of the three players).

In an editorial Thursday, the Emerald calls out administrators for being less than forthcoming about their investigation into the matter:

“The UO administration has frivolously used the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act — a law intended to protect a student’s educational record — in order to defer any questions about the incident, creating a general lack of trust among the media and many faculty members,” the Emerald wrote.

SPLC’s FERPA Fact has written frequently about the issue of FERPA and sexual assaults — here, here, here, here, here, here and here — but clearly, some schools haven’t gotten the memo. Yes, FERPA prevents schools from sharing records created after the report of a sexual assault, but it doesn’t prohibit disclosure of information that isn’t from a record (for instance, explaining why the players were allowed to continue the season). It also doesn’t prevent them from sharing information about polices or procedures, or the outcomes of disciplinary cases where students are found responsible for sexual assault.

Like the Emerald points out, secrecy only breeds distrust. Kudos to the Emerald staff for holding their university accountable.