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Eastern Kentucky University is the focus of the latest public university assault on open government.

On November 23, the Richmond Register published a little noticed article about Dr. Lisa Gannoe, an associate professor at Eastern Kentucky University who “claims university officials fostered a hostile work environment and retaliated against her . . . after she complained about a lack of action regarding classroom safety complaints.”…;

The Register afforded EKU officials an opportunity to respond to Gannoe's allegations. The university did so by offering general assurances that it "takes all reports of possible workplace concerns seriously, including reports of retaliation, and makes every effort to respond to such reports as quickly as possible." It referred the Register to a university HR policy.

Acknowledging the parties' conflicting positions, the article offers a detailed narrative of Gannoe's unsuccessful pursuit — through all legally available means — of a resolution of a classroom challenge posed by a volatile and disruptive student. Her persistence was rewarded by reassignments and realignments that, she maintains, failed to address the classroom problem and permanently damaged her professional reputation. 

Gannoe's disciplinary fate was sealed when officials accused her of violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act by appealing EKU’s denial of her open records request for evaluative comment sheets prepared by students in the class — an effort she apparently undertook to ascertain the full impact of EKU’s mishandling of her classroom concerns.  

The Attorney General turned an equally deaf ear to Gannoe’s claims, affirming the university’s denial of her request because she failed to “show any heightened public interest in the disclosure of comment sheets for these particular course evaluations,” and rejecting her argument that the open records statute vesting university employees with an absolute right to access any record that relates to them. 

Gannoe “is not seeking to review the records in that capacity, but merely as a private citizen. In making a request under the Act, [she] enjoys no greater entitlement to the [records] than any other member of the public.” (

In support, the Attorney General cited an open records decision affirming the Department of Probation and Parole’s denial of a request for urinalysis test results documents, obtained by a probation and parole officer and used in the requester’s parole revocation hearing.

Assuming that Gannoe's narrative is truthful, in part if not in whole, we again question the university's candor and, ultimately, the wisdom and fundamental fairness of its treatment of the associate professor — including EKU's claim that she violated FERPA when she “appealed her previously declined open records request with the Attorney General’s Office.” 

EKU appears to have joined the growing circle of public universities that prioritize concealing uncomfortable truths and silencing, by whatever means necessary, their critics.


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