Some critics said on Tuesday that they were worried that it could be easier for universities to hide scandals after the state Supreme Court sided with Ohio State University about open records.
ESPN filed a lawsuit to challenge the Ohio State University’s decision to withhold records involving last year’s football scandal. The sports network wanted e-mails between Jim Tressel and Terrell Pryor’s mentor in an effort to see who knew what and when about memorabilia being traded for tattoos, 10 Investigates’ Paul Aker reported.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that documents were considered student records and were off limits to the public, including ESPN.
The Court ruled federal law said that the e-mails about Pryor were educational records, even though they had nothing to do with academic performance, financial aid or disciplinary matters, Aker reported.
Attorneys representing Ohio State said that the federal government could stop the nearly $1 billion the university receives in federal funding if the university handed over the records.
An expert said that the Supreme Court’s decision would make it harder to get records in the future.
“It will be harder for them unless they get really good lawyers,” Susan Gilles of Capital Law School said. “So, you want to frame the request in a way that says you don’t want specific student information. Now, that’s a very sophisticated way of asking for a record and most people won’t have that sophistication.”
Another expert, Mark Weaver, said that journalists will find a way to tell what is going on.
“This may force journalists and other public records requestors to ask for records in a different way,” Weaver said. “But when it comes to core elements of how Ohio State runs, I still think the public is going to be able to see these records.”
Ohio State officials sent a statement applauding the court’s ruling, Aker reported.