In Cambridge, Harvard University occupies something of a grey area between public and private institutions; it’s undeniably present in local government and yet exempt from transparency laws that apply to state-run schools. This has caused a great deal of controversy over the years, especially concerning the Harvard University Police Department, which refuses to release its crime logs. Harvard’s student paper, The Crimson, even brought the matter to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, demanding greater access to records. The court ultimately sided with Harvard, maintaining their “private,” and therefore exempt, status.
All of which is why MuckRock user Sarah Cadorette came up with the idea to ask for all emails between HUPD and the Cambridge Police - which are public documents and therefore subject to disclosure. And the City Clerk was more than happy to hand them over … to the tune of $9,000.
The city justified the expense by arguing that a conservative estimate put the number of emails at over 25,000 and that they were unwilling to release “manipulable” metadata. After some discussion, we agreed to narrow the time frame to November 2011 to January 2012, and April of this year to present - hoping to get material regarding Occupy Harvard and the Pussy Riot lecture, respectively. That gave us a new estimate of $3,648:
After much debate, we decided that we’re going to go for it. And we need your help. Let’s try to do what that lawsuit couldn’t; we’re opening this to crowdfunding, and every small bit helps us bring us closer to a more transparent Harvard.
This is MuckRock’s biggest crowdfund yet, and while it would be a fantastic coup to get the full amount, we recognize that we’re asking for a lot, because Cambridge is asking for a lot. As such, whatever amount we raise, we’ll renegotiate for the equivalent amount of emails.
You can contribute on the request page, or by clicking on the button below.
Image via Wikimedia Commons