The California State University (CSU) is here to serve students, citizens and taxpayers of California. But through a lack of transparency, the CSU failed the system and its students last Thursday when Mustang Daily was repeatedly denied access to a public document — all over a $0.20 check.
It began when Mustang Daily requested an email sent from CSU Chancellor Charles Reed to campus presidents that was related to a story about politics in the CSU published today. Under the California Public Records Act, everything sent from a calstate.edu email account is public record, but we were initially told the email could not be provided because of CSU policy.
After checking the Public Records Act to see if there were any access limitations between chancellors and presidents (there weren’t), we filed a formal records request with the CSU. In a response addressed to “Daily Mustang” the next day, we were told we could either schedule a meeting at the CSU headquarters in Long Beach to review the document, or pay $0.20 per page for a mailed letter or email.
Since Mustang Daily is without a Long Beach bureau, we decided to request an email. We offered to pay with credit or debit card, to which we received a response that the CSU has, “no way to process that kind of transaction, so payment must be in the form of a check.”
Knowing that processing a check through the Mustang Daily state account could take weeks, we offered to have a friend near the CSU headquarters go pay the office $0.20 in person with a quarter. We were even prepared to let the CSU keep the change.
But that offer was also refused. This time, the spokesperson said it was because there are no cash registers at the CSU office, and once again told us payment must be with a check.
In the end, the document was provided to us by another source, free of charge. And though we were able to move forward with the article as planned, the CSU’s actions demonstrated behavior that is contradictory to its mission statement: educate the state’s students and provide an environment where research is valued and supported. It is key that the CSU upholds these guiding principles and doesn’t succumb to red-tape bureaucracy so that those who fund the CSU can understand how their money is being spent and serve as part of the decision-making process.