G-T files second appeal for OSU records

2014-02-11T17:45:00Z 2014-03-03T16:06:55Z G-T files second appeal for OSU recordsBy Bennett Hall, Corvallis Gazette-Times Corvallis Gazette Times
February 11, 2014 5:45 pm  • 

The Gazette-Times has made some headway in its efforts to obtain complete electronic payroll information from Oregon State University but is again appealing OSU’s decision to withhold some data.

The G-T and its co-petitioners, former student media adviser Kate Willson and Megan Campbell, managing editor of OSU’s student newspaper, are seeking five years’ worth of electronic payroll records for all employees of the university, as well as explanatory information about the compensation database.

OSU officials previously offered to provide compensation data on faculty and staff members but refused to release the same information on students, saying that was protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, known as FERPA.

The university also withheld data dictionaries and record layouts that would enable reporters to understand the fields contained in the database, calling that information proprietary and exempt from disclosure under the Oregon Public Records Law and the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

Willson, Campbell and the Gazette-Times appealed the partial denial on Jan. 17 to Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson, who upheld the university’s position on data dictionaries and record layouts but declined to rule on the FERPA question, saying the appeal had not specifically sought an opinion on that issue.

Last week, after a revised request from the petitioners, OSU released a substantial portion of the records being sought. The university provided payroll data on faculty and staff dating back to Jan. 1, 2008, along with a set of field names allowing the data to be interpreted.

OSU is still refusing to provide any student pay records, citing its interpretation of FERPA.

The university also declined to release any data regarding employee gender, deferred pay, vacation leave or personal leave. Those details, OSU claims, are considered private under exemptions in the Oregon Public Records Law related to faculty records and personal privacy.

On Monday, the Gazette-Times and its fellow petitioners filed a second appeal with the district attorney challenging OSU’s interpretation of the law and asking that it be compelled to provide the rest of the requested records.

Steve Clark, OSU’s vice president for university relations and marketing, had no comment on the specifics of the appeal, saying simply: “We await the district attorney’s review of this matter.”

Reporter Bennett Hall can be contacted at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@gazettetimes.com.

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. TruthIs
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    TruthIs - February 12, 2014 5:16 pm
    Well, a serious story that respects the reader's intelligence would have listed the sections of the ORSes that OSU cited as the basis for claiming the exemptions. This is starting to look more and more like a sad little theater of journalism that demeans the public records act and its real value to the public.

    The big issue that Hall's chaotic reporting has failed to address is what original question are Willson and he trying to answer about pay at OSU? What we already know from extensive reporting in the Oregonian and elsewhere is this:

    1) PERS Tier 1 employees are doing quite well, and Tier 2 not so bad. Post-PERs-Tier 2 employees will do potentially much less well.

    2) Salary compression between longer serving faculty and newer faculty, which is offset to a large degree by the greater value of PERS Tier 1/Tier 2 retirement benefits many longer serving faculty have and the post-PERS Tier 2 retirement system for newer faculty.

    3) An apparent pattern of gender discrimination that is almost entirely explained by other employee-controlled factors (mainly gender-correlated patterns in job choices including faculty specializations).

    4) The overwhelming majority of the highest paid employees at OSU are in the athletics program.

    5) Students workers aren't paid very well, especially compared to what OSU has raised tuition under Ray and his predecessors, and the amount of money spent on non-educational activities at OSU.

    6) A lot of the lowest paid workers at OSU aren't even OSU employees. Their jobs have been outsourced by OSU and they work for the companies with which OSU has contracted.

    There are far important issues at OSU that we need addressed by talented reporters. Unfortunately, based on this story so far, it's just not clear we are going to get anything in that category.
  2. TruthIs
    Report Abuse
    TruthIs - February 12, 2014 4:49 pm
    @gadfly, don't know if Haroldson is a right-wing nut (but one does have to be a little bit different to be a prosecutor). The reality is that that politicians on both sides in Salem hate transparency. Due to the simple fact left-wing nuts in Salem have held the majority for most of the last couple of decades, they are responsible for most of the exceptions in the law.
  3. gadfly
    Report Abuse
    gadfly - February 12, 2014 5:53 am
    Thanks, GT, for continuing this battle. It's important. Haroldson is a right-wing nut, so you'll most likely have to go beyond the courthouse. I hope you have the energy and funding to make this happen. We are all stakeholders in this issue.
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