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Will Wright

In my senior year at the University of Kentucky, while working at the Kentucky Kernel, UK’s student newspaper, we came upon a big story. We didn’t realize at the time just how long the story would continue to make news. (It turned out to be about five years.)

Here’s a short synopsis: We got information that a professor was investigated by the university for sexual harassment, and that he got a deal where he was paid to leave the university because of it. Naturally, we made an open records request for the investigative documents. UK, naturally, didn’t want to turn them over. 

What followed was a five-year legal battle over whether these records should be shielded from public view. In the end, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that they were not. To get to that conclusion required an immense amount of work – from student journalists and from the attorneys who made their case in court. 

Looking back on it all, the thing that impresses me most is how the Kernel, throughout the several editors and dozens of reporters who took part in this process, stood firm in its convictions. Student journalists are so often remarkable in their willingness to take risks and fight for what’s right. In this case, so many did and it paid off. Legal battles like this can be confusing and scary, particularly when your own university is the one on the other side. 

But the ability to access records about our public institutions and how they handle things like sexual harassment are worth the trouble. The Kernel proved that, and every Kentuckian will benefit from it.



Will Wright was the editor-in-chief of the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky's student newspaper, during the 2015-16 school year. He has since worked as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader and The New York Times. He now lives in Charlotte, N.C., and writes about politics for The Charlotte Observer.


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