Four months later, UCLA has not released contract with Chinese government
For the past four months, UCLA has repeatedly delayed its response to a public record request from ‘Campus Reform.’
Last year, an education rights organization won a lawsuit against UCLA after the school had delayed response to a public records request for over a year.
The University of California-Los Angeles has delayed its response to a public record request from Campus Reform for the past four months.
Recently, Campus Reform investigated public universities’ ties to Confucius Institutes — an initiative of the Chinese government’s education ministry that is marketed as a language and cultural exchange, but in actuality exists to spread the doctrines of Chinese communism.
Thirty-two universities provided documents to Campus Reform. However, UCLA continuously dodged the request.
On April 8, Campus Reform Assistant Editor Adam Sabes requested “copies of public records that contain the contract or agreement that the University of California-Los Angeles has had at any point with the Confucius Institute Headquarters” under the California Public Records Act, which mandates a response from universities within ten business days.
On April 19, UCLA Information Practices Coordinator Chelsea Malone told Sabes that the office would require an extension due to the “need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request.” Malone promised that the university would offer an “estimated date that responsive documents will be made available” by May 3.
UCLA Information Practices responded on May 3 promising a response by no later than May 17. The university then cited COVID-19 and related office closures as a reason for the slow response.
On May 17, however, UCLA Information Practices again delayed their response date to July 1. The university repeated its assertion that COVID-19 was causing the delay.
The university then repeatedly delayed its own deadline to June 15, July 2, and July 16.
As of August 4, Campus Reform has not received a copy of UCLA’s Confucius Institute contract.
Campus Reform, however, is not the only organization to experience such obstacles.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education issued a public records request to UCLA on March 2, 2018, requesting a copy of video from a speech delivered by former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and any related communications. According to the group, “it took 404 days, five extensions, and a lawsuit” for UCLA to meet the request.
On October 20, 2020, the Superior Court of California ruled in favor of FIRE; as part of the resolution, UCLA acknowledged that it had violated the California Public Records Act by neglecting to meet the request.
“California's public records law, like that of many states, allows governments to repeatedly delay production of public records without serious consequence,” Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program Adam Steinbaugh told Campus Reform. “Public institutions underfund and understaff their public records teams, leading to long delays in producing records. That frustrates the public oversight function of transparency.”
“After all, if the public will only learn about what's in public records long after decisions are made, how does that facilitate public feedback and oversight?”
Campus Reform reached out to UCLA for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.