U hides employees’ names

Administrators are refusing to release the names of workers in the U’s animal research lab because they say those employees’ safety could be at risk.

Utah Primate Freedom, a local animal rights group, recently submitted a government records request form asking for the researchers’ names, but the U denied the request.

The group is planning to appeal the university’s decision.

An attorney for the U said the school isn’t handing over the names because animal rights activists “have a history” of violence toward researchers.

John Morris, general legal counsel for the U, said while no physical violent acts have been committed against researchers at the U, the U fears the group’s actions could escalate.

“We believe that particular group has been involved in acts of vandalism against our faculty,” Morris said.

He said members of the group splattered red paint across the driveway of one U researcher’s home and have engaged in other acts of vandalism, but he didn’t disclose any further details.

Phyllis Vetter, the attorney who handled the government request form, is out of town and unavailable for comment.

Katie Patterson, a U student who submitted the records request, denied that her group has been involved in any acts of vandalism. She is appealing the U’s decision to the Utah State Records Committee.

Members of Utah Primate Freedom often protest outside the homes of U researchers. They argue that the experiments conducted on monkeys and chimpanzees will one day be viewed as morally reprehensible.

Patterson said the group wants the names and positions of the employees in the lab to be released so they can hold them personally accountable for any wrongdoing recorded in lab records.

“No one outside the U knows what’s going on inside the lab,” said Patterson, a sophomore English major.

State open-records laws require government entities to disclose the names of the organizations’ employees. Morris, however, argues that because the safety of the employees is in jeopardy, the law allows their names to be withheld.

Patterson said she thinks the U is making a bogus argument because she said the statue only provides for the names of undercover law enforcement officials to be withheld.

Utah Primate Freedom has fought the U for access to lab records before. Jeremy Beckham, the group’s leader, fought and won a battle at the State Records Committee in 2004, forcing the U to release documents detailing the experiments conducted on animals. The U, however, was allowed to charge Beckham up to $300 to obtain the records.

Courtesy of Utah Primate Freedom