Transparency for colleges has become a very important thing. When scandals pop up, the media obsess over it until somebody is held responsible. Due to these scandals, such as the sex abuse scandal at Penn State or in 2009 when the University of Illinois gave some prospective students special consideration for admission due to political connections, it has become even more important for colleges and universities to be as transparent as they can be to the public.
Iowa State is no exception. Recently, the university found out that some athletic staff have pushed the boundaries of permissible contact for athletes they are recruiting. The guidelines for permissible contact are set up the the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Between 2008-2011, coaches and staff called and texted prospective athletes during periods when no contact was allowed.
In response to this discovery, the university conducted an investigation and reported their findings to the NCAA and issued a public statement. The University found that 1,484 impermissible calls were made from 2008 to 2011 across 18 sports.
The Athletics Department reported that they will not say anything about this matter until the NCAA makes a decision about what they will do about it. The incident “constitute(s) a major infractions case as a whole.”
Iowa State did a great job of handling this matter with the NCAA, however their censoring of the information that they gave out to the public is inadequate. Hopefully, as things move forward, Iowa State will step up their game and give the public more information.
Just as this happened, the new Transparency Task Force that was created by the Board of Regents because they would like the state universities to become more transparent, came into operation.
They have two goals: to recommend the best way to respond to public information requests and to recommend the best process for further access to public information that is of interest to Iowans.
This new task force met recently for the first time. Each public university had the opportunity to present how they make information available to the public through their website and how they respond to questions from the media. The task force plans on holding a series of public forums across the state to get a response from the public on how the universities can be more transparent.
Iowa State reported that during the 2012 calendar year, there were about 1,500 media contacts and around 300 news releases. They reported that Iowa State aims to be transparent while being respectful of sensitive information.
For a large institution that is funded with state money, transparency is a very important thing. That being said, we do need to remember that there is some information that is not supposed to be made public.
A few weeks ago, it was discovered that the University of Iowa was giving out federally protected student information to the sheriff’s office to determine who can and cannot receive a permit to carry a weapon. The information includes details about a student’s academic performance and any disciplinary issues with the university.
That information cannot be used by the sheriff to determine if an individual can receive a permit. In this case, the university should keep that information to themselves.
As that case shows, it is important for the public universities to closely work with the Board of Regents to know where the lines should be drawn. This is something that all colleges and universities will constantly be having to monitor. There is no one-time answer. Knowing which and how much information to give out can be a very hard thing to decide and must remain a priority for public institutions.
Hannah Dankbar is a senior in political science and Spanish from Johnston, Iowa.