President Garrey Carruthers (see his response below)
The Society of Professional Journalists Río Grande Chapter is alarmed and disappointed by the efforts of New Mexico State University administrators to weaken the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA).
Draft changes circulated by university leaders would significantly limit the public’s access to information about institutions they fund with their own tax dollars. Such changes would leave New Mexicans less informed about their government and remove vital safeguards against abuses of power.
For example, draft amendments we have reviewed would give law enforcement broad discretion in determining whether certain public records should be kept secret.
While couched in concerns about privacy and due process, we believe this would give law enforcement too much leeway in deciding what the public has a right to know. That, in turn, would give law enforcement too much room to skirt oversight.
We are similarly alarmed by a proposal that would allow public institutions to withhold records pertaining to complaints alleging civil rights violations by those same institutions. This proposal is also couched in concerns about due process.
We believe secrecy should be the exception rather than the rule.
IPRA is strong because it is simple.
Journalists and the general public rely on this accessible law each day to better understand the institutions that serve them.
We urge New Mexico State University to abandon these proposals before they go any further and instead join us in calling on lawmakers to bolster the public’s right to know by holding accountable those institutions that flout this vital law.
The Board of Directors of the Society of Professional Journalists Río Grande Chapter
Response from President Carruthers
Thank you for your comments. I will take them under advisement as we work with the legislature. Our biggest issue may be the inordinate amount of staff time we have to use to ferret out, in some cases, thousands of pages of documents. I am sure, at a minimum, you would support legislative changes that would allow us full cost recovery to provide all of these documents. It seems your biggest concern is restricting information from police files. I get it!
Garrey Carruthers, Ph.D.
Office of the President
New Mexico State University
P. O. Box 30001
Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001