Tuesday, May 23

Press Pass: A look at Daily Bruin’s information stonewalls


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President Donald Trump’s anti-media antics never fail to surprise me.

A few weeks ago, Trump decided to ban certain media outlets from attending his press briefings. He participated in what is called “stonewalling,” which is when someone decides to withhold or delay information because they simply don’t want to face the repercussions of releasing that information. That’s essentially what Trump did by banning the BBC, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, the Guardian and more from attending certain briefings.

Unsurprisingly, the Daily Bruin has also faced stonewalling within the UC system. Let’s take a look at a few of the times Bruin reporters were forced to wait months or years to receive the information they needed:

UCLA health and records blocking a reporter: Daily Bruin reporter Sonali Kohli, now at the Los Angeles Times, and photographer Blaine Ohigashi, now working for Sports Illustrated, covered a story in 2014 about Malawi’s LGBTQ community and the struggles its members have to face as outlaws in their country. UCLA Health officials and media relations officers denied access to the reporter. Additionally, they kept her waiting for nearly a year to access additional requested information.

Final results of disciplinary case for violent offenders: In 2014, a reporter chose to write an article on student violent offenders. The reporter requested that UCLA Records Management and Information Practices provide the Daily Bruin with records of any student violent offender case, but this request was not properly met by the administration.

UCLA Records Management and Information Practices Office fails to respond in timely manner: This records request regarding UCLA Health doctors was made in August 2016. In February – almost six months later – The Bruin had not received the documents or an update on their timing.

Diversity Chancellor Search Committee would not release names of candidates: In January of 2015, the UCLA search committee refused to provide the Daily Bruin with the names of its four candidates for the vice chancellor of equity, diversion and inclusion – even though their candidacy was public knowledge and they were scheduled to take part in open forums on campus.

This is a small glimpse of the times this organization has been stonewalled by campus administration. The issue at hand goes far beyond some hard feelings between a few Daily Bruin reporters and select UCLA officials. At a certain point, it exposes the lack of transparency within the University of California system.

[More: A full list of The Bruin’s current unresolved requests]

Just last week, the UC released reports of sexual misconduct violations committed by staff and faculty members after a Public Records Request was initiated by multiple media outlets, such as the Bay Area News Group, the Daily Californian and more. The reports span three years, dating back to 2013 and ending at 2016. Twenty-five of the 113 cases were from UCLA.

The UC committed to a certain degree of transparency by releasing the reports. But it’s not enough. It was only after a multitude of media outlets submitted various personal records requests that the UC released this information.

Under the California Public Records Act, a copy of a record can be requested by the agency in question. The agency is given 10 days to decide as to whether or not the request can be met. The Public Records Act was put in place because “access to information concerning the conduct of the public’s business is a fundamental and necessary right for every person in the State.” There are certain exemptions to the act where the agency is allowed to not disclose the information, which is outlined in a summary of the act.

As a result of the Public Records Act, the UC is required to comply with such requests from media outlets, as long as it is deemed that the UC cannot exempt itself from releasing the information.

It should not come down to media outlets begging its campus administration or the UC to release crucial information that deserves to be public knowledge – until that is understood, the Daily Bruin will keep adding to its list of stonewalls.

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Sravya Jaladanki is a current Daily Bruin Quad contributor. She enjoys writing about various societal and cultural issues on college campuses.


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