Legal Affairs stops SG interview notes from being released


Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

Interview notes for internal and external nominations made in April by the Student Government Executive Board will not be made available to the public, after their disclosure was determined to be in violation of federal privacy rights by the University's Office of Legal Affairs.

Student Government President Kori Rady, who has been hesitant to disclose the contents of the interview notes before their contents became a legal matter, said the interview notes contain sensitive and intimate disclosures that should not be made public.

“I think, with the assembly and executive board working so close together, we’re already on the same page in regards to student privacy in that we value it and are working hard to protect it,” Rady said. “Listening to these people delve into their lives … there are definitely situations during interviews that you just feel like ‘wow I probably shouldn’t let everyone know about this,’” Rady said.

The internal and external positions — more than 70 in total — include various SG agencies, such as Hook the Vote, and working as liaisons between SG and other organizations, such as Faculty Council or the city government.

The decision follows an SG court ruling in May asking the executive board to release all interview notes to the public, due to an internal rule stipulating that all interview questions, answers and evaluations shall be made public by the staff.

Rady said a potential constitutional amendment drafted and approved by the SG assembly could circumvent the issue in the future, but a timeline on that particular plan of action has not yet been established.

Braydon Jones, SG assembly speaker, said in an internal email that all previously made appointments which were invalidated by the May court ruling, will be reconfirmed at SG’s meeting of the fall semester.

According to Jones, representatives will have until Aug. 22 to review nominees.

Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly, who also serves as an advisor to SG, said while individual students have every right to view their personal information under FERPA — or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act — an organized group like Student Government does not.

Enacted in 1974, FERPA restricts student records from all parties without written consent, including parents, and applies to all institutions receiving funding from any program under the U.S. Department of Education. Sara LeStrange, spokeswoman for the Office of the Dean of Students, said the Office of the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer has the final decision in matters related to FERPA.

Lilly said she thinks personal anecdotes and stories of triumph, adversity or otherwise should be told at the sole discretion of the student.

“Transparency does not mean ‘at the expense of,'" Lilly said. “It’s up to you to share that story.”

This article has been updated since its original publication.