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December 13, 2017

Guess who’s coming to UA dinner? It’s a state secret




The University of Arkansas says it is a secret who’s been invited, other than university employees, to the gala tonight at UA to begin a major fund drive.

I’d written earlier that UA had said it would not release a guest list for the $450,000 dinner at which 400 special guests will be thanked for past giving and encouraged to give more.

I made a formal FOI request . My response from UA spokesman Mark Rushing:

Attached is the University’s response to your public records request for “the guest list to the gala Friday night.” Information regarding current donors and prospective supporters of the University has been redacted, pursuant to the competitive advantage exemption of the Arkansas FOIA, Ark. Code Ann. §25-19-105(b)(9)(a). Release of this information could prove harmful to the U of A and advantageous to other organizations seeking similar financial support. In addition, the names of student volunteers and guests have been redacted as protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). 

[pdf-1]
Legal minds greater than mine (now-federal Judge Leon Holmes for one) have taken great exception to the UA’s long-held position that revealing anything about fund-raising would put the university at a competitive advantage. That part of the FOI law was written to protect private businesses working with government, not to protect government. The UA also laughably misinterprets the FERPA.

But that’s what they do. Presumably they’ll use face-obscuring software should any of the promised video from tonight’s gala stray from designed university speakers to the big shots in the crowd. Is there a secret tunnel entrance to the event so the fat cats may avoid paparazzi? We’ll see.

There’s an important point here and it’s not about dinner guests. The university trades many things for money. Sometimes it’s merely a name on a building (why isn’t that protected under the FOI, now that I think about it?) Sometimes it’s much more, such as the UA’s agreement to set up an arm aimed at the destruction of our democratic public education system in return for Walton millions. Rich people get more consideration than the public from UA. Always have. Accountability suffers. Remember the Advancement Division scandal? Looks like the new broom didn’t sweep the place clean.



The University of Arkansas says it is a secret who’s been invited, other than university employees, to the gala tonight at UA to begin a major fund drive.

I’d written earlier that UA had said it would not release a guest list for the $450,000 dinner at which 400 special guests will be thanked for past giving and encouraged to give more.

I made a formal FOI request . My response from UA spokesman Mark Rushing:

Attached is the University’s response to your public records request for “the guest list to the gala Friday night.” Information regarding current donors and prospective supporters of the University has been redacted, pursuant to the competitive advantage exemption of the Arkansas FOIA, Ark. Code Ann. §25-19-105(b)(9)(a). Release of this information could prove harmful to the U of A and advantageous to other organizations seeking similar financial support. In addition, the names of student volunteers and guests have been redacted as protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). 

[pdf-1]
Legal minds greater than mine (now-federal Judge Leon Holmes for one) have taken great exception to the UA’s long-held position that revealing anything about fund-raising would put the university at a competitive advantage. That part of the FOI law was written to protect private businesses working with government, not to protect government. The UA also laughably misinterprets the FERPA.

But that’s what they do. Presumably they’ll use face-obscuring software should any of the promised video from tonight’s gala stray from designed university speakers to the big shots in the crowd. Is there a secret tunnel entrance to the event so the fat cats may avoid paparazzi? We’ll see.

There’s an important point here and it’s not about dinner guests. The university trades many things for money. Sometimes it’s merely a name on a building (why isn’t that protected under the FOI, now that I think about it?) Sometimes it’s much more, such as the UA’s agreement to set up an arm aimed at the destruction of our democratic public education system in return for Walton millions. Rich people get more consideration than the public from UA. Always have. Accountability suffers. Remember the Advancement Division scandal? Looks like the new broom didn’t sweep the place clean.

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