UK filed suit against the Kentucky Kernel Wednesday to appeal the Kentucky attorney general’s decision saying the university should release documents pertaining to a sexual assault and harassment investigation.
The university announced that it would sue the Kernel in an email to campus Aug. 9, the day Attorney General Andy Beshear announced his office’s decision. UK filed the suit in Fayette Circuit Court Wednesday.
Former Kernel editor Will Wright filed an open records request in April for all documents pertaining to the sexual misconduct investigation into associate professor James Harwood.
The university denied the request, which prompted Wright to appeal to the Attorney General’s Office.
Days after the decision and the announcement from UK, the Kernel came into possession of the investigation, the appendix and cover letter from an anonymous source related to the case.
UK spokesman Jay Blanton and UK General Counsel Bill Thro said the university would not verify the authenticity of the documents that Kernel had obtained.
In the introduction to the notice of the appeal, the university wrote that its interest in pursuing the suit was not because of a dispute with the student paper, rather with the attorney general’s decision.
Blanton said in an email to the Kernel that the university will appeal the decision because of the “obligation we have to victim survivors who have courageously come forward in the past under the assurance of confidentiality; and those who will follow.”
Though university officials have said multiple times that their reasoning is in the interest of the victims, a representative of the victims said they disagree.
The representative said the two victims were not contacted by the university before the email was sent and that using victim anonymity as its reasoning for the suit was questionable because of that lack of communication.
They also said that they wanted the investigation into Harwood’s violations to be public with names and identifiers of victims and witnesses redacted.
“The university excuse is not credible,” said Tom Miller, the Kernel’s attorney. “It does not appear that they are protecting anyone but themselves because the names of any of the witnesses or any of the victims are going to be excluded from public disclosure.”
Miller said the Kernel will file an answer to the suit next week and will be asking for a prompt hearing so it can get a quick decision.
“I believe it is extraordinarily important for the Kernel to defend itself in this action because of the importance of the public getting full disclosure as to what occurred involving a university employee paid with public funds who allegedly abused his position with students,” Miller said. “It’s necessary to get full disclosure for the protection of all students and for the public to know how the university undertakes to protect its students.”