The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday April 12th

Letter: What more can UNC’s public records do?


I was surprised that Editor Jane Wester’s column (“It’s Your Government”) provided Daily Tar Heel readers with such an outdated and inaccurate picture of how the University responds to public records requests.

So, in the spirit of the season, let’s do a little fact-checking on her reporting.

I would be the very first to agree with Jane’s assessment that in the past the University has not always done as good a job as everyone would have liked.

However, including links to two-year-old columns from previous editors in the online presentation of the column does not present a current or fair picture of the Public Records Office’s work.

The current context and facts are important.

The DTH consistently ranks as the number one requester for public records, currently accounting for 20 percent of this year’s requests.

Over the past two years, we’ve received 90 total requests from the DTH; 75 of those had been closed with responses through August 2016.

So what’s outstanding? The pending DTH requests include one from fall 2014 for all materials from the Wainstein investigation, a request that requires us to review and process approximately 5 million pages of documents.

And while it’s still an open request, we’re not just sitting around.

To date, we’ve provided the DTH with more than 1.2 million pages of materials for that one request alone.

In addition to that request, the records office has provided more than 409,000 pages of non-Wainstein documents for all records requests filed in fiscal 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016.

In the past six years, we’ve averaged about 400 requests each year.

Given the complexity of many of the requests and the number of documents and pages involved, can we respond instantaneously to every request? No.

Are we trying to be obstinate, as Jane writes in her column? No.

In fact, we’ve gotten a lot better both in terms of timeliness and transparency.

We want to be the example of public records processing for major United States public research universities.

That’s Chancellor Folt’s expectation and fitting with UNC-Chapel Hill’s role as a leading public university.

Joel Curran

Vice Chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs

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