TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: “Privatized” government functions are putting the public’s records behind corporate barricades

Records created, held or used by state agencies are (with limited exceptions) supposed to be readily available for the public to inspect, and that includes the records of public schools and colleges.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Government officials’ “golden parachute” agreements aren’t “confidential personnel records”

Having Graham Spanier as president cost Penn State's reputation dearly. Getting rid of him wasn't cheap, either.In the year that he was ousted -- on the day of his criminal indictment alleging complicity in the cover-up of coach Jerry Sandusky's serial child molestation -- Spanier was given (on top of his normal compensation package) an extra $1.2 million just to go away, making him not just the nation's most reviled college president, but also its highest paid."Golden parachute" agreements for college executives are a matter of intense public interest at any time, but doubly so given the austerity measures that many colleges are imposing that (unlike an extra million for the former CEO) directly affect the quality of instruction.The rise of the "supersize severance" is no accident.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: It’s easier than ever to find out what private colleges, foundations and athletic associations are spending

The way that the IRS regulates nonprofit organizations is much in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. These headlines are a reminder that any nonprofit organization -- including a private college -- must make extensive disclosures to the IRS that are a matter of public record.A must-have document for anyone doing research on a private university, or the privately incorporated arm of a public university such as a foundation,  is the annual IRS Form 990.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Campus surveillance enters the drone zone

Aided by technological advances, government agencies are constantly inventing new ways to collect information -- and it was only a matter of time before "drone surveillance" made it way onto college campuses.Last week's announcement that the University of Alabama-Huntsville had acquired a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles with an eye toward equipping them with police security cameras undoubtedly sent a shiver through public urinators and weed cultivators everywhere.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: It’s 10 o’clock — do you know where your college president is? You would, if you had his calendar.

Ever wish you had one of those electronic manatee tracking collars to keep tabs on where government officials are going -- the ones who are always "out of the office" or "in meetings" and unavailable for interviews?Well, until they start microchipping college presidents (note: that would be great), journalists will have to settle for the next best thing: Appointment calendars.Last week, a Pennsylvania court decided that reporters for the Associated Press are entitled under that state's open-records act to complete copies of Gov.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Colleges’ “if you’re suicidal, you’re expelled” policies deserve greater scrutiny

A Western Michigan University undergraduate says he was thrown out of school and banned from college premises after being hospitalized for clinical depression.Jackson Peebles told the Western Herald that, even after his own physician gave him a note clearing him to return to school, WMU initially refused to readmit him, alleging he violated a student conduct code against "[c]ausing physical harm to self or others," although he neither attempted suicide nor threatened anyone else.

TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Are college students wasting time and money re-learning high school coursework?

When students arrive on campus underprepared for the rigors of college coursework, everybody pays. Colleges must invest in offering "developmental" classes in math and English, and students end up paying full-freight tuition for courses that generally do not count toward the credit-hours needed for a degree.The cost of remedial education -- and whether it's being over-used -- is a topic of intense focus in the education press and in the school reform field. A recently published study shows that a rising percentage of Colorado high school graduates -- as many as 60 percent in some municipalities -- require remediation when they enter college.While such statistics suggest colleges are overrun with academic stragglers, there is in fact some indication that developmental courses are being over-prescribed because of unreliable placement tests, and that a substantial share of those enrolled in remedial coursework don't need to be there.Student journalists should take advantage of the many publicly available databases and reports to localize this phenomenon on their own campuses.The expense of remedial coursework -- paying college tuition prices for what should've been taught in high school at no cost -- is part of the larger story about soaring college costs and student loan debt, and it's part of the reason so many students need more than the traditional four years to earn a degree.