OKLAHOMA — Officials at Oklahoma State University announced they will release the names of students who receive parking tickets on campus, one day after the University of Oklahoma’s president said it would release the citations.
While the announcement at OU could end a public records lawsuit filed against the university more than a year ago, student journalists have been fighting with administrators at both institutions for more than two years to access the records, said Joey Senat, who teaches media law at OSU and is a member of the advocacy group Freedom of Information Oklahoma.
“It’s always good for public’s right to know and need to know when government decides to be open,” Senat said. “It’s unfortunate that it took four years for the two schools to decide to do that.”
In 2010, one of Senat’s students requested parking ticket records from OSU and OU, but administrators said the federal student privacy law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, protected the documents from disclosure.
“In keeping with the Oklahoma Open Records Act, Oklahoma State University has withheld the names of students receiving parking tickets to protect their privacy,” OSU spokesman Gary Shutt said in a statement. “However, going forward, the university has decided to make student names available through the open records process.”
On Wednesday OU President David Boren said he would release documents that identify who received parking tickets on campus, the same day The Oklahoma Daily, OU’s student newspaper, announced it was joining a lawsuit against the university. Joey Stipek, special projects editor for The Daily, filed a lawsuit in September 2013 when officials declined to provide documents indicating who received parking tickets during the spring 2012 semester.
In 2011 a state court judge in North Carolina ruled parking tickets given to student athletes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are not protected from disclosure by FERPA. Additionally, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in 1998 information about student athletes’ unpaid parking tickets must be available to the public.
“People can’t make informed decisions about how their government operates,” Senat said, “if the government doesn’t abide by the open government statutes.”
SPLC staff writer Anna Schiffbauer can be reached by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 127.