Media sues UNC over public record

A coalition of North Carolina news organizations filed suit Thursday against several top UNC officials for access to public records in the university’s investigation of the school’s football program.

Officials from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have refused to provide records related to the ongoing investigations into improper relationships with professional agents and academic misconduct since August, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal student privacy law, according The Daily Tar Heel.

“Our perception is that the university is using FERPA as a blanket excuse to withhold any information about students that might be relevant,” said Daily Tar Heel Editor-in-Chief Sarah Frier, a senior, in an interview with The Chronicle. The DTH is one of the organizations filing suit against UNC.

The Daily Tar Heel joined with The (Raleigh) News & Observer and six other publications to file the lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court. The suit names UNC Athletic Director Dick Baddour, head football coach Butch Davis, Director of Public Safety Jeff McCracken and Chancellor Holden Thorp as defendants.

Thorp said he was “disappointed” by the lawsuit in a statement released Thursday.

“The University is 100 percent committed to complying with our obligations under public records laws,” Thorp said in his statement. “We recognize the media’s legitimate interest in the football story, but we can’t ignore federal and state law with regard to confidential student and personnel records.”

The suit seeks the release of unredacted phone records for the university-issued cell phones of Davis, Baddour and former associate coach John Blake; employment information for tutors hired by UNC and documents pertaining to former tutor Jennifer Wiley; internal documents associated with UNC’s investigation; parking tickets issued to 11 UNC football players; names of those who provided benefits to players and records of which players receive scholarships, according to The Daily Tar Heel.

Frier said the DTH has been considering filing a lawsuit “in recent weeks.”

“We had a couple of weeks of talking with the university trying to clarify our position and their position to see if they can see our side without a lawsuit, but they’re sticking,” Frier said.

The DTH is represented by Amanda Martin, who serves as counsel for the North Carolina Press Association and for reporters and editors at more than 200 publications.

Other news organizations named as plaintiffs in the suit include the Charlotte Observer, News 14 Carolina, a cable TV station operated by Time Warner Entertainment-Advance/Newhouse Partnership; WTVD Television; Capitol Broadcasting; the Associated Press and Media General Operations.


Share and discuss “Media sues UNC over public record” on social media.