The board of trustees can legally change their policy requiring proof of residency for access to open records, the president of Tech’s Society of Collegiate Journalists said.
President Kendyl Seals said she consulted Deborah Fisher executive director for the Tennessee Coalition of Open Government and TCOG Lee Pope attorney about the issue.
Currently, Tech’s policy states the requester must show proof of Tennessee residency before gaining access to public records.
Fisher and Pope said it is optional under Tennessee law whether to require identification such as a driver’s license, Seals said.
“If out-of-state students are living and paying tuition at Tech, it should be easier for them to gain access to public records,” Seals said.
The legal question came up when Seals and SCJ member Emma Holmes presented the board with a petition at its March 21 meeting. The petition, signed by 150 students and faculty, asked the board to allow the use of a school ID.
Seals and Holmes also showed the board three video interviews with out-of-state Tech students who support the policy change.
The board questioned whether trustees could approve changes.
“Isn’t it a law in Tennessee that you need proof of Tennessee citizenship in order to gain access to public records?” Chair Tom Jones asked.
Jones said he would consult with Tech’s attorney on the actions they can take.
SCJ and The Oracle have been working to get the policy changed since attending a Feb. 1 public hearing.
The trustees plan to re-visit the policy at their June meeting.