The Chronicle’s View: Access to U records should have been granted

The oldest animal at the U’s Animal Resource Center has been in its care since 1970. That’s 34 years-too many, according to U student Jeremy Beckham.

Beckham, a freshman biology major, stood before the State Records Committee on Thursday to present his case.

He has filed requests since August 2003 to view documents detailing animal experimentation at the U’s Animal Resource Center, but has received only portions of the information that is supposed to be accessible to the public.

According to the Utah Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA), the public has the “right of easy and reasonable access to unrestricted public records.”

The State Records Committee decides which records can be made available to the public. It determined Thursday that Beckham does indeed have the right to view the requested documents.

And rightly so.

Hats off to U student Jeremy Beckham for standing up for what he believes in.

Although the premiere institution of higher learning in Utah, the U nonetheless does not have the right to supersede GRAMA.

Besides, it simply makes sense that the public should have access to documents that are funded by public fees. Citizens have the right to know where their money is going.

U students should likewise have access to records documenting research that is partially funded by mandatory student fees.

It is unethical for the U to hold back information that is, by law, open to the public.

It’s not just about a university student who is concerned about the ethical issues of using animals as subjects for scientific experimentation.

It’s also an issue of his right to information that will shape his understanding of the research performed.

Now the U must recognize his right of access to the requested documents.

This case sets a precedent for other U students and citizens who, in the future, are placed in a similar situation.

From a journalistic perspective, in order to have integrity in the reporting of information, it is vital to have complete access to public documents.

Unfortunately, Beckham will not be able to view the documents in their original form-the U still has the right to redact proprietary information such as names of drugs and specific procedures performed on the animals.

Only then can he view the documents.

But it is still a victory for him and all U students who, against all odds, make their voices heard and in the process, make a difference.