Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Price of Transparency?

 UMass Du Bois Library

From: Larry Kelley <>
To: aseifert <>
Cc: michaeldwiseman <>; jeankim <>; bwburke <>; buffone <>; jkennedy <>; mleto <>
Sent: Fri, May 11, 2012 7:53 am
Subject: Re: Public Documents Request

Thank you for your prompt response, as I can imagine you are all very busy at the moment. 

Not to be curmudgeon or anything, but just last month the University did break with "standard practice" by giving me the
Bentz, Whaley, Flessner report on the UMass Amherst Alumni Association without charge.  And obviously, since my friends at the Springfield Republican eventually did a front page story on the matter, that too was a matter of public interest.

I am also confused why you worry about the need to withhold "materials or data relating to student education records and personal data."  I asked for sanctions imposed against fraternities and sororities (corporations) not individual students. 

Or are you following the flawed Supreme Court edict that corporations are people?  Really?

Have a great graduation day!


From: Annemarie Seifert <>
To: Larry Kelley <>
Cc: Michael D Wiseman <>; Jean Kim <>; Brian W. Burke <>; Nancy Buffone <>; John Kennedy <>; Michael A. Leto <>
Sent: Thu, May 10, 2012 9:42 pm
Subject: Re: Public Documents Request

Mr. Kelley,

I understand your perspective, but we are unable to waive the cost associated 
with your request. The process I have outlined is our standard practice. Take 
care - Annemarie

Annemarie Seifert, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Development

From: Larry Kelley <>
To: aseifert <>
Cc: michaeldwiseman <>; jeankim <>; bwburke <>; buffone <>; jkennedy <>; mleto <>
Sent: Thu, May 10, 2012 1:36 pm
Subject: Re: Public Documents Request

I wish to request a waiver of the $368.45 in costs associated with my Massachusetts Public Records Law request.  The data is being gathered for a news article which many--if not most--readers (at least the 1,000 who frequent my hyper-local news site daily) would consider a matter of public interest. 

I am also a homeowner in Amherst and as such contribute (in addition to my wife's annual voluntary contribution to Isenberg School of Management) to the Univeristy's operation costs via state and local taxes, and as an Amherst resident (5th generation) have a vested interest in the town/University partnership on "safe and healthy neighborhoods" an article about which I am gathering this information.

If you are worried about journalistic pedigree or news judgement, I am probably the only person alive who can say they have taken "Journalism Ethics " with Howard Ziff (audited 1983) founder of the UMass Journo program and then again last year (online for credit) with Karen List, current director of the highly regarded UMass/Amherst journalism department.

The death of the Gateway Corridor Project and the impending doom that will befall North Amherst Village Center form based rezoning this coming Monday night is directly attributable to a (mis) perception in town that those worthy projects will create more rowdy student party houses.  Furthermore many in town think UMass is not doing enough to address this problem.  I think my records request would go a long way towards changing that perception.

Do you really wish for my readers to get the impression you have something to hide, and are stonewalling?  I also find it particularly ironic that Ted Koppel--a journalism god--is giving the keynote address at tomorrow's graduation.  What would Mr. Koppel think?

Thanks for your consideration,

Larry K


Anonymous said...

If you really want this stuff, Larry, then you should pay for it. Why should they absorb the cost to research and copy this information? Who cares if you are a 5th generation Amherst resident? What does that have to do with anything?

The law says that they have the right to charge you for this stuff. I thought you were a firm believer in no exceptions to the Public Records law! Oh, only if it applies to you?

Gotta hand it to you, Larry. You sure have a lot of nerve. You want thses documents? Pay for them.

LarryK said...

A Cowardly Anon Nitwit who does not have the guts to sign their name to something has a lot of nerve telling me I have a lot of nerve.

Anonymous said...

Yea, I disagree with you and therefore, I am a CAN. When folks agree with you, whether Anon or not, they are above reproach.

Gettin a little old, Larry.

LarryK said...

A lot depends on the snark factor. And CANs tend to be a lot more snarky.

Light in the Dark said...

I agree with you Larry. This cost is absurd to me in the concept of a democracy. It's almost like when Devalue... sorry, I meant Deval Patrick decided that one would have to pay $25 dollars to fight a speeding ticket.

Guilty before innocent?

Anonymous said...

Claiming special status for oneself simply because one's family has lived here longer: let's see, where do we find that elsewhere in American history?

Oh yes, it's nativism, and was used to bludgeon and bully, both literally and figuratively, Larry's newly arrived Irish forebears in the nineteenth century.

It's a fundamental principle of American equality, symbolized by our flag: you have no greater or lesser rights and privileges in this country simply by virtue of the fact you've lived here longer.

LarryK said...

You tend to find it in courtrooms when a lawyer argues his client--the ax murderer--should be released for a relatively low bail because he's lived in the community for x amount of years (the more the better), thus his roots run deep so he is not going to fly the coop.

Anonymous said...


Your response to Anon 7:41 misses the writers point entirely. Your exmaple is a total non-sequiter.

LarryK said...

Or non sequitur perhaps.

Anonymous said...

As childish as ever, Larry.

On whipping apes. said...

That's alright.

Play hard-ball Larry.

Sting 'em.

ax grinder said...

great argument larry, if it's good enough for an ax murderer, it's good enough for you


click the link

Dr. Ed said...

I really have had enough of the Libertarian-Nihilism!

If you really want this stuff, Larry, then you should pay for it.

NO. This is an important point -- a half century ago we were dealing with different technologies.

Think Polaroid camera -- $1/picture instant photography versus the digital camera and email -- a similar thing happened with copier technology.

Back then, it literally was a photo-copier, really expensive machines on special light-sensitive chemical paper that was also expensive, and I don't believe the machines had a very high lifetime copy count, either.

Now it is all electro-static technology and plain paper, almost all copiers are now essentially a combined scanner and laser printer (and for those who are paranoid, yes you can pull another copy of the last thing copied out of the machine's memory later).

It is less than a penny a page. Photocopiers commonly hold 10,000 sheets of paper in the various trays. The technology has changed.

But when the law was passed, copying was so incredibly expensive that a balance was sought -- you can look at anything you want to, but if you want copies, you have to pay for those.

That was fair in 1970 -- not now. And I doubt that anyone under 40 has ever even cut a mimeograph stencil or used a blue spirit master. Times have changed, it is now actually cheaper for the government to give you copies than to let you read them in the office.

It is even cheaper for them to email the documents to you.

Why should they absorb the cost to research and copy this information?

Because there is a compelling public interest in having the public's business see the light of day. That is why it is called the "Sunshine Act." And it doesn't matter if it Larry, or Ed, or the drunken schmucks at PIKE, the potential that someone MIGHT ask to see and copy stuff keeps government bureaucrats honest.

Why do we have a fire department? If you do something stupid that causes your house to catch on fire, why is that my problem -- I didn't do it and it isn't my house that's burning.

Why should we pay a considerable amount of money to have guys sitting up all night ready to come running over with some quite expensive equipment to rescue you from your own stupidity?

Half the town budget goes to schools, why should people who don't have children have to pay to educate other people's children?

I would never date someone who hit me (at least not again), nor would a lot of women I know. Why should we have to pay for all the domestic violence intervention stuff? Etc, Etc, Etc....

There are two principles here. First, society is not a la carte -- we have to pay for the whole thing and not just the parts we personally benefit from. This is not unlimited, it very much is a balancing act and I think we are spending too much in general for government, but this sophomoric Libertarian-Nihilism that is almost identical in Amherst and certain parts of the GOP is really maddening.

I have seen the same thing amongst recipients of public assistance -- the government should give me more money. And, I ask, where is the government going to get it FROM?

But more importantly, bureaucrats have become more and more adept at finding ways to hide things. One approach is the obscenely high alleged "cost" of providing access to what is supposed to be open for public viewing. UMass once tried to charge me over $200 for "redacting" a document that didn't even exist!

Boston is very clear on this -- they also will reduce fees *they* consider unreasonable. And do.