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Student government requests data from SHSU

Associate Editor

Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 00:02

Student government officials filed multiple open records requests Wednesday concerning Sam Houston State University’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and various campus issues.

Student Government Association’s University Affairs department requested copies of or access to public information held by the university, including multiple emails and audit reports. The three different requests are asking for documents concerning the ADA, intellectual property rights as they pertain to students and the Office of Audits and Analysis.

“It’s hard to tackle any kind of potential problem if we don’t know what’s actually going on,” University Affairs chief Spencer Copeland said. “All we’re really doing is asking permission. It wouldn’t matter if we submitted [an open records] request or if I just walk up to the person and say ‘hey, can I see the documents?’ In this case, we can get more information quicker, and be more accurate, as opposed to a face-to-face meeting.”

Copeland said the spirit of SGA submitting these requests is for the organization to be clear whether or not issues exist.

In one request, Copeland asked for access to audit reports, investigations, consultations and emergency appropriation information on anything having to do with ADA. The request also asked for access to any emails concerning ADA from any address within the Office of the President, Office of Facilities Management, Office of the Provost, Office of Audits and Analysis, and the Office of Finance and Operation.

This is a part of an ongoing interest student government has with the state of ADA compliance on campus.

In another request, Copeland asked for documents that outline the university’s intellectual property rights policy concerning students. SGA picked up on the idea after Faculty Senate brought up their concerns with the faculty’s intellectual property rights.

Student Affairs chief Alex Rangel said he attended a meeting in which Faculty Senate raised concern over intellectual property.

“The first thing that popped into my mind was, what about students?” Rangel said. “Students create many different things.”

He said he was notified of an incident in the theatre department where SHSU tried to film a performance, but a student wouldn’t let the university film it due to his ownership of the rights to the production.

According to the most recent publication of SHSU Intellectual Property Policy, material created by faculty or staff using “significant resources” of the university is owned by the university.

“With administration, with faculty and with staff, it’s a slightly different ballgame because with them, they’re being paid by the university,” Copeland said. “The university can claim some rights into what was created, because the university is paying them to do ‘a, b, c and d’. If ‘a, b, c and d’ lead to some kind of invention, idea or design, the university can say they paid them to do that.”

Since students are paying the university, and not being paid by the university, Copeland said there should be different policy for students when it comes to what’s created by students with on-campus policies. Rangel and Copeland both hope looking into the intellectual rights of students, and how they intertwine with the university’s existing or future policies, will produce a clear-cut answer to who owns what students create.

The third open records request SGA submitted was for a detailed description of every audit outlined in the Internal Audit Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2012-2013. The organization also asked for emails regarding why three of the 18 audits, including one over dorm security, weren’t performed.

Copeland said reporting in The Houstonianled to SGA’s interest in the audits.

“The audits that weren’t performed do raise some eyebrows, but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything necessarily wrong,” Copeland said. “If there are legitimate reasons as to why they weren’t conducted, that’s fine, and we want to make sure we move forward informed and we don’t make decisions based on misinformation.”

According to the Texas Open Records Act handbook, the university has to release the information “promptly” or reply to SGA within 10 days with a reason why they’re withholding any information.

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