Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Following the Wrong Role Models

I posted at CIC two weeks ago about the Canadian Forces and Department of National Defence falling back on denials rather than answering question so often that it has become the first response.  Well, my old employer, McGill, seems to be using the Canadian government as a role model.  Students, student journalists and others have ramped up the number of access to information requests that they have made of McGill, and now McGill is essentially asking for permission to deny these folks their rights to get access. 

Sure, some of it may be gratuitous or abusing the system, but a university is supposed to be a creator and disseminator of information.  It should have little to hide and be more transparent than pretty much any other public institution.  Carleton, my current employer, resisted the attempts of newspapers to get info about their Political Management program.  Once they released the info and revised the agreement with the donor, the problem went away. 

McGill should respond to the access requests, provide the docs and move on.  Covering up/resisting becomes the story and not one that is going to be favorable to the university.  If it uses heaps of staff time, then revise/fix how information is stored.

I am familiar with ATIP processes as I have asked the Canadian government for documents and have been mostly pleased by the responses.  Sure, lots of stuff in the Canadian docs on Afghanistan have been redacted, but I could see most of the stuff I was looking for.  It took awhile at times.  I am currently waiting for a Privy Council document, and I am curious as to how long it will take. 

Anyhow, McGill, Carleton and other public universities are government institutions in both good ways and bad--they are obligated to be transparent, they are run by people who want to evade the spotlight, and when they try, the spotlight gets stronger.  This is a lesson that people never seem to learn.  On this one thing, the Borg were right: resistance is futile.


Anonymous said...

By curiosity, how long and difficult to have an ATI processed at Carleton U?

It may be interesting to compared both universities.


Steve Saideman said...

The ATIP stuff is not processed by universities but by the government offices, so the comparison is not McG vs Carleton but DND vs PCO.