LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: Herald stands with Kernel staff in wake of lawsuit

Brandon Carter

On Aug. 9, Attorney General Andy Beshear ruled in favor of the Kentucky Kernel’s request for the University of Kentucky to release documents pertaining to a sexual assault and harassment investigation centered around a former professor.

The university claimed their refusal to release the records was rooted in their commitment to protecting the privacy of victims and survivors. Appealing that ruling would mean the university would have to take the newspaper, run by its own students, to court.

They’ve now done that.

The university took the extraordinary step of filing a lawsuit against the Kernel on Wednesday. This comes after the Kernel obtained the disputed records via a confidential source connected to the investigation. The records were redacted, as is standard practice for most open records requests of this nature, and an Aug. 13 editorial by the Kernel editorial board pointedly spoke to this disparity.

“The ability to redact names and identifiers of victims and witnesses shows [UK President Eli] Capliouto’s privacy claim was wrong at best,” the Kernel editors wrote. “The effort university officials put into sealing these records raises doubts about their true intentions.”

Now forced into a legal battle with Kentucky’s largest university, the Kernel has launched a GoFundMe campaign to assist in fighting the lawsuit. I encourage you to contribute.

As former Kernel editor Will Wright wrote on the GoFundMe page, “university administrators must not be allowed to hide public records simply because they have the most money in the game.”

I wholeheartedly agree. Student journalists across the country work tirelessly to hold accountable the very same institutions from which we seek our degrees. It can be a tough load to carry, especially when that very institution decides to sic its top-notch legal team on you and your colleagues.

Despite it all, the staff of the Kernel have continued to report on the story with grit and aplomb, and I salute them. They are doing the very things that journalists are tasked to do – giving a voice to the voiceless and holding the powerful accountable – while under the scope of national attention and a looming legal battle.

We see this fight play out on a larger scale, both in Kentucky and nationally. Our governor has in the past refused to answer questions from specific reporters and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton hasn’t held a press conference in over 250 days.

This trend shouldn’t just disturb members of the media. It should disturb everyone. Elected officials should have to answer to their constituents, and appointed officials should have to answer to the taxpayers whose money they spend.

To the staff of the Kentucky Kernel: the members of the editorial board and the staff of the College Heights Herald stand in solidarity with you. We are committed to the tireless pursuit of transparency and accountability and we encourage the rest of the Commonwealth of Kentucky to support you, too.

Editor-in-chief Brandon Carter can be reached at 270-745-5044 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @brandonetc.