Texas Tech and Chancellor Kent Hance are questioning the motives of an alumnus who has filed freedom of information requests about activities at the university. Lynn Eastham has hired a law firm and public relations professional to obtain information about several issues. They range from Texas Tech’s Tier One status to issues with Jones AT&T stadium. Eastham also wants to meet with a member of the legislator about issues at Texas Tech. Chancellor Kent Hance is on record as saying this is an attempt to harm him.
Here is the problem with that logic. Texas Tech is and certainly considers itself a part of the state government. This is well established through the university’s much publicized use of sovereign immunity in the ongoing Mike Leach case. As part of the state government and an institution that accepts state funding, the university is open to public scrutiny. Any citizen that wants to file a freedom of information request and review how the university conducts its business has the right to do so.
Texas Tech has made a lot of noise about who is behind these requests. Is it Mike Leach or some other group? Is this the work of disgruntled fans? The fact is that it does not matter. All of those people that the university has a problem with have a name in America. They are called citizens. All government institutions are accountable to citizens, as a collective group.
Any citizen has the right to question the government. In fact citizens have a responsibility to question the government if they think something is not being done properly. Lynn Eastham has every right in the world to make requests for public information. As a lawyer and former elected official, Kent Hance knows this. Is Texas Tech, as a state institution, trying to bully a private citizen into not exercising his constitutional rights?
So just take what Kent Hance is saying at face value for a moment. Just assume someone does want to hurt him with all of these requests for information. What is the fastest way to shut them up? Wouldn’t it be to open up the books and show the public exactly what the requests are asking for? Assuming everything has been done the right way, there should not be a problem and these questions can be dispensed with immediately.
The answer to citizens wanting information is to make that information available. Giving citizens as much information as possible is much preferable to bullying citizens into not asking anymore questions. Citizens have a right and a duty to keep an eye on the government. That is how democracy works. Hopefully, that is not something Texas Tech has forgotten.