When someone walks into a classroom or enrolls in a class, they most likely do their research on the professor in charge. They might go to ratemyprofessors.com or do a quick Google search to see what they find about that professor.
In December, however, Ohio University suddenly announced that it changed its process regarding public access to reports of student Title IX allegations — which could range from sexual harassment to disability discrimination — against university employees. The change in process limits the public’s access to key information about faculty and staff members they could be interacting with.
The university has justified the change in process by arguing that it protects students — that previous memorandums “alluded more information to the public than intended,” making it possible to identify the complainants in Title IX cases.
Officials claim they can make this change under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which limits the amount of information a university can release about a student’s education records.
For example, Frank LoMonte, the director of Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, said withholding entire documents that should be released in redacted form makes the university liable under open records laws, which guarantee access to documents produced by public institutions.
Under Ohio law, public universities should redact personal identifying information rather than withholding the entire record when possible.
Before the change in process was implemented, Post reporters had access to those records in a redacted format, which left out who the complainant was and key details about them. Having those records previously allowed students to know about the allegations against former English professor and suspended journalism professor — and the complexity of those situations.
In contrast, on an appeal filed by a professor who has been accused of sexually harassing three students. However, because of the change in Title IX proceedings, readers were unable to access full details about what happened, and the full stories of students who have been preyed upon by professors and other staff members are unable to be told.
Not only is the university denying necessary access to public records that could pertain to the sexual harassment of students, but many have said it is also breaking the law. That fact is deeply troubling.
We understand the desire to preserve the image of the university. Our criticisms always come with the understanding that while we are journalists, we are also students who love our school. We understand that every report of a predatory professor is a blow to our university’s reputation. That does not mean, however, that we will turn a blind eye to wrongdoing.
We urge Ohio University to re-examine its Title IX records process and re-open public access to memorandums of finding. Until then, we will continue to report on these cases to the best of our ability, with or without the transparency of the university.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Post's executive editors: Editor-in-Chief Lauren Fisher, Managing Editor Maddie Capron, Digital Managing Editor Alex McCann, Assistant Managing Editor Jessica Hill and Creative Director Abby Gordon. Post editorials are independent of the publication's news coverage.