SIUC shouldn’t take public records down

As a publication that covers matters concerning the University and its students on campus, we know a little bit about the importance of public information in shining a light on unsound University practices.

That is especially the case at our school, which is currently investigating a law school numbers scandal and is still fighting a court battle stemming from the school’s clout ordeal.

But it appears other Illinois universities have public relations issues stemming from their decision to curb access to public records. Last week, the library system at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale was told to remove all information containing employee salaries from its book shelves. After that, the university’s Office of the Chancellor ordered the information to be shredded, although the school backed down from the measure shortly after.

This measure comes after three unions at Southern Illinois authorized motions to strike after a year of stalled labor negotiations. No one has been able to make a direct correlation between removing salary information from the public domain and the fight over labor contracts, but the proximity of time is curious.

Could the unions fighting for higher wages use the salary books for arguing for more money? Sure, and that could ultimately not work out in the university’s favor. But that is not reason to remove what is obviously public information.

The university’s argument for the order is that the salary books contain information on graduate student’s salaries, which is protected under federal student protection laws. The books in question do contain graduate student information, but school employees say that has never been an issue prior to the ongoing contract negotiations.

Is Southern Illinois that concerned about unions gaining an upper hand at the bargaining table? After a year of stalled negotiations, will one union member saying “Look what they make” really alter the course of the labor talks? We say that is not likely, which makes the effort of removing such information even more unnecessary.

In a state with a history so steeped in corruption, these issues need to be addressed. Whenever information is removed from the public domain, the possibility of mismanagement greatly increases.