National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

UNC claims right to shield names of students disciplined for on-campus sex misconduct

Judges should shield UNC-Chapel Hill from having to release the names of students disciplined in on-campus sexual-misconduct cases for fear of chilling reporting by victims and because federal law overrides North Carolina’s Public Records Law, lawyers for UNC say.

In a brief directed to the N.C. Court of Appeals, UNC-CH’s legal team admitted that federal student-records privacy laws give the university the discretion to release the names of students found responsible for “any crime of violence” or “non-forcible sex offense.”

But Chancellor Carol Folt’s administration has decided that disclosure “is not in the best interest of the university or its students,” and the wording of the federal privacy law means the N.C. General Assembly can’t say otherwise through the state Public Record Law, UNC’s lawyers told the appeals court.

The U.S. Congress assigned “discretion” on the point to universities, and the Public Records Law is thus irrelevant because it “interferes with federal privacy objectives for students,” said the lawyers from N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein’s office who are representing UNC-CH. Read more…