Not just for newspapers

Valedictorians earn the ability to give graduation speeches through their continuous hard work. They get the opportunity to close the high school chapter for their classmates and themselves. And while graduation speeches rarely cause riots or uproars, that hasn’t stopped some administrators from censoring, or even rewriting, the speeches.

Using lobbyist disclosure records

Right up there with insurance companies, drug manufacturers and utilities, colleges and universities are big players on Capitol Hill and in state capitols across the country. Colleges spend many millions hiring lobbyists to secure grants, to obtain relief from regulations, and to otherwise influence public policy. Federal law, as well as the law in many states, requires those who hire lobbyists to disclose who they hired, what they paid, and what legislation they tried to impact.

The secret police?

A gray area exists as to whether open records law should be applied to private university law enforcement. A private university may have its own police department with the same arrest powers as any public police department, but in many states it’s at the discretion of the department to release crime records when requests are made. A private university police department may respond to an open records request with the response that as a private institution, it is not governed by state open-records law.

Public campus, private spaces

The increased use of private contractors on college campuses is regularly provoking disagreement over the ability of privatized bookstores, coffee shops and copy centers to declare otherwise-public property off-limits for newsgathering. The issue has become a point of frustration for student journalists who are welcomed as customers in their student role but may be excluded once their cameras come out.