UCO Updates Open Records Policy
The University of Central Oklahoma is making changes to its policy on open records requests that will impact the way members of the media access information.
Adrienne Nobles, assistant vice president for University Communications, said that her office is working on amending the current open records request policy.
“We are revising the open records request process,” Nobles said. “The process was previously not very clear, so we are hoping our update adds clarity.”
The university’s current policy was last updated in 2009. The new policy will be part of a collaborative effort between University Communications and the university Office of Legal Counsel.
“Requests will go to University Communications and, working with the university’s legal counsel, we will route to the appropriate campus office to gather the requested materials,” Nobles said. “They will return the materials to us, and we will send [them back] to the requestor.”
The Oklahoma Open Records Act covers the majority of documents and information held by government agencies. There are a few specific categories of information that are protected from requests.
The submission of official requests for data have existed since the inception of the Open Records Act. There is not a specific limit in the law for how long an organization has to respond to a request, but it does state that an excessive amount of time cannot be taken on a request and requests cannot be preempted by those previously filed.
This is where the policy changes cause concern for some.
“There seems to be an added layer of bureaucracy that will curtail journalists from getting records that are open to the public in a reasonable amount of time,” said Joe Hight, president of Freedom of Information Oklahoma.
Any person can request records from a public body or official, according to the Open Records Act. These requests allow for transparency between government entities and citizens.
For journalists, the access to open records provides information necessary for complete and accurate reporting.
“I hope the university has taken into consideration what timeliness means in providing records to journalists, including the publication that covers them most closely,” Hight said.
Nobles said University Communications and the Office of Legal Counsel hope to have the updated open records request form available online later this week.