Faculty should have received the email from Chancellor Block below regarding public documents requests for such things as emails. The statement is good. The two links provided are also useful. But when you get through reading them, you should still regard virtually anything you email or write as potentially a public document. Yes, various exemptions exist. But there are gray areas. In addition, an email you sent to someone else at another public institution – maybe in another state – might be made public there. Even if you deleted it, the recipient may have it. That is the reality.
In recent years a number of universities including UCLA have received public records requests seeking disclosure of faculty members’ scholarly communications. 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.
UCLA’s joint Administration–Senate Academic Freedom Task Force, charged with helping our campus prepare to respond to such requests, recently published its Statement on the Principles of Scholarly Research and Public Records Requests. The statement is a compelling affirmation of our peer review system and the right of faculty to conduct research and scholarship on controversial topics free from political interference. I wholeheartedly endorse it, as do the Academic Senate, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh, and other UCLA academic and administrative leadership. I urge you to read it.
The statement stands as the guiding principles for UCLA’s response to requests for disclosure of faculty members’ scholarly communications. The task force also developed a Faculty Resource Guide for California Public Records Requests that explains how UCLA faculty should respond to requests for records and manage electronic records in light of the California Public Records Request Act.
UCLA is among the first universities to consider this issue systematically, and the result is a set of guiding principles based on our core values. Please join me in expressing appreciation for the outstanding work by the task force, which was co-chaired by Vice Chancellor for Academic Personnel Carole Goldberg and Professor David Teplow, chair of the academic freedom committee of the Academic Senate. Other members were Senior Campus Counsel Amy Blum and professors Barbara Herman, Matthew Kahn, Ann Karagozian, Christopher Kelty and Mark Sawyer.
Gene D. Block