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Chancellor Block releases statement on records requests

By Daily Bruin

January 11, 2014 12:43 pm

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block released an email statement Friday in support of protecting faculty at public institutions from public records requests that could threaten their academic research.

UCLA and other universities have received a number of public records requests for faculty members’ scholarly work or communications in recent years, which sometimes allows politics to interfere with academic freedom and the process of peer review, according to Block’s statement to some UCLA faculty and administrators.

“The potential chilling effect of these requests has raised new questions about academic freedom and its intersection with public institutions’ legal obligations to conduct business transparently,” Block said in the statement.

State open record laws and the federal Freedom of Information Act give individuals the right to access records held by California public institutions and federal institutions, respectively, unless the records are exempt from disclosure by the law.

Because UCLA is a public university, individuals can request emails, invoices or data collected during research, among other documents and information, according to the California Public Records Act.

In September 2012, UCLA’s joint Administration-Senate Academic Freedom Task Force published a statement detailing the university’s stance on requests for scholarly work under the California Public Records Act and the federal Freedom of Information Act.

In his email, Block urged faculty to read the university task force’s statement, which asserts that faculty at public institutions should have the same protections that people at private universities or corporations possess.

The task force’s statement says public records requests for academic research have been increasingly used to intimidate faculty researching controversial topics or to further political goals.

For years, UCLA’s Administration-Senate Academic Freedom Task Force has been working to develop ways for faculty to protect their documented communications and academic research.

The task force has also tried to gauge the role of academic freedom as it is affected by state open records laws, a relationship that has raised concerns across academia.

Compiled by Amanda Schallert, Bruin senior staff.

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