Questions follow Harper resignation, player suspensions

Brandon Carter

WKU administrators have unilaterally declared their inability to comment on the situation surrounding the WKU men’s basketball team.

“Federal law prevents us from public discussion of any details related to student disciplinary cases,” Athletic Director Todd Stewart said in a statement issued by the university on Thursday, March 17.

Former Head Coach Ray Harper submitted his resignation on Thursday, and three players were suspended following the result of a University Disciplinary Committee hearing on Wednesday night.

Freshman guards Chris McNeal and Marlon Hunter and junior guard Fredrick Edmond are currently suspended from the basketball program following the hearing.

President Gary Ransdell told the Herald on Monday that Harper’s resignation was related to the outcome of the hearing.

“[There] may have been multiple considerations, but yes, this was the primary reason,” Ransdell said.

According to Zach Greenwell of the Bowling Green Daily News, the suspensions are not related to an academics issue or an NCAA violation. The Herald has been able to confirm that no police reports regarding the three suspended players have been filed with the Bowling Green Police Department or campus police.

Ransdell confirmed to the Herald WKU has no plans to comment further on the situation surrounding the team, nor will the university discuss the circumstances surrounding the hearing and subsequent suspensions due to federal privacy laws.

The Herald submitted multiple open-records requests related to this story, including emails among Ransdell, Stewart, director of Judicial Affairs Michael Crowe, Jr., and Title IX coordinator Andrea Anderson. Each of these requests was denied due to the content of the messages containing information that is “preliminary in nature” or that is prohibited from disclosure under federal privacy law.

The Herald also requested any information regarding Title IX investigations or disciplinary actions regarding the three suspended players. This request was also denied, once again citing federal privacy law.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, is the federal law WKU officials say prevents them from commenting or disclosing any information. Enacted in 1974, FERPA is a federal law that protects students’ educational records by limiting the disclosure of those records. FERPA guarantees students — or parents, if the student is under the age of 18 — the ability to review their records, obtain a copy of their records and request corrections.

According to the act, FERPA also allows federal funding to be withheld from any educational institution that “has a policy or practice of permitting the release of education records … without consent” to non-authorized parties.

The use of FERPA to withhold the release of information pertaining to school disciplinary actions and procedures has been widely criticized by organizations like the Society of Professional Journalists and the Student Press Law Center. Frank LoMonte, the executive director of the SPLC, wrote in a 2012 article for Inside Higher Ed that the law is bad for accountability.

“FERPA [became] the catch-all excuse for every school and college that finds disclosure inconvenient or embarrassing,” LoMonte wrote.

Despite their silence regarding the suspensions of the three players, Stewart and Ransdell are moving forward with the search to replace Harper. Ransdell listed a few important characteristics he hopes to see in the next head coach.

“Head coaching experience, impeccable character [and] a leader of men and mentor to our players,” Ransdell said.

Ed. note: For disclosure reasons, it must be noted that the author of this story is a part-time photography intern for WKU Athletics.