University, Tribune fight over Category I in court

The Chicago Tribune and the University argued in court Friday about whether the University has to release the names of individuals who were admitted with subpar qualifications to the University because of clout, known as Category I.

According to a University press release, the case hinges on interpretation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, or FERPA, which protects students’ privacy rights.

A federal district court ruled that FERPA stopped the University from accepting federal funding if it violated FERPA, but it did not prevent the University from disclosing the names on Category I. The University appealed the judge’s decision.

“The federal legislation at the heart of the case has served as the ‘gold standard’ of privacy for 35 years,” said Samuel Skinner, University attorney. “We are urging the court to preserve the intent of Congress and the decades of legal and academic practice this law has engendered by upholding the privacy rights of students under this legislation.”

The Chicago Tribune stated in a press release that revealing the names of Category I would show how those with clout influenced the University.

“The only way to reveal how the powerful wielded their influence is to know who sought and received admissions and who were their sponsors,” said Gerould Kern, senior vice president and editor of the tribune, in a press release. “From the beginning, the University of Illinois has fought to keep these and other records from public view. It still is.”

The judge in this case told both sides to file supplemental briefs in 14 days.