Advisory council sues UM System over access to faculty syllabuses

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 | 6:10 p.m. CDT; updated 5:36 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 25, 2013

*CORRECTION: A civil complaint was filed in Boone County Circuit Court on Oct. 1, 2012. An earlier version of this article named the wrong county.

COLUMBIA — An advisory council in Washington, D.C., sued the University of Missouri System on Monday after the system refused to submit education program syllabuses under an open-records request. 

Robert Schwartz, UM System chief of staff, said in an email that before the UM System responds to the suit, it will have to review it.

The National Council on Teacher Quality submitted an open-records request for the documents on Oct. 31, 2011. In July, the UM System denied the request for the syllabuses, saying the documents were intellectual property and not subject to open records law.

UM System President Tim Wolfe said in a letter to faculty members that it is up to individual faculty members to decide whether they want to share their syllabuses.

"As owners of this property, it is at your discretion whether you provide your syllabi to them," he said in the letter. "Our denial of the request is based on the premise that it would not be appropriate for the university to provide the syllabi without the consent of the affected faculty members."

In the letter, Wolfe said the National Council on Teacher Quality proposed that the syllabuses be provided under a confidentiality agreement. The UM System denied the request and proposed sharing only syllabuses of faculty members who did not object. 

*The civil complaint was filed in Boone County Circuit Court on Monday after an agreement between the two could not be reached.

The advisory council requested the syllabuses to evaluate teacher education programs at the system's four campuses. In the evaluation, schools are assigned a grade ranging from A through F based on criteria including admissions, coursework, licensing exams and student teaching placement.

Arthur McKee, managing director of teacher preparation studies for the council, said he is confident the advisory council will eventually obtain the syllabuses. 

The report is scheduled to be published early next year in cooperation with the U.S. News & World Report.

Supervising editor is Jacob Kirn.

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