The Society of Professional Journalists Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter is issuing the following statement calling on UCLA to comply with the California Public Records Act (CPRA) and honor SPJ/LA’s March 2018 CPRA request for correspondence concerning Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s controversial February 2018 public appearance at UCLA’s Burkle Center for International Relations:
SPJ/LA is calling on UCLA to stop stalling and comply with the California Public Records Act (CPRA), and honor SPJ/LA’s March 2018 CPRA request for correspondence between the University and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin concerning Mnuchin’s February 26, 2018 appearance on campus for a guest lecture at the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations.
Mnuchin’s appearance became controversial when, unlike previous lecturers, he withdrew his earlier permission for the University to post video and audio of his lecture and a Q&A session, which was briefly disrupted by hecklers.
SPJ/LA and others pointed out that Mnuchin was a public official making an official public appearance at a publicly funded university for an event open to the general public, and that as such, he did not have the right to prevent recordings of the event from being posted by the University. UCLA, after conferring with its own lawyers, agreed that the recordings could not be withheld and subsequently posted the material, as Mnuchin formally withdrew his initial objections.
In an effort to learn what sort of prior agreement might have improperly given Mnuchin veto power over publicly posting records of a public event at a public facility, SPJ/LA on March 7, 2018 filed a CPRA request for all relevant correspondence during the year prior to the controversy over posting recordings of Mnuchin’s appearance.
UCLA has continually stalled the request, repeatedly informing SPJ/LA on March 16, March 29, June 29, and August 31 that despite SPJ/LA’s narrow request and tight time-frame, “the review has not been completed,” ignoring UCLA’s own proposed deadlines time and again.
SPJ/LA again reminds UCLA of its obligations as a taxpayer-supported public institution to comply with the state’s Public Records Act in a more timely manner and either produce the requested documents without delay, or explain as the law requires why those records cannot lawfully be released.
SPJ/LA is left to wonder: What does UCLA have to hide? Who does UCLA have to protect?