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UW Won’t Appeal Ruling on Public Records

January 31, 2020

The University of Wyoming will not appeal an Albany County District Court ruling granting public access to redacted documents related to the UW Board of Trustees’ decision not to renew former President Laurie Nichols’ contract.

In deciding not to appeal to the Wyoming Supreme Court, the Board of Trustees has issued this statement:

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees seeks consistently to act in the best interests of the university, the state of Wyoming and its residents, and all university employees. Our commitment to the latter typically requires us to maintain confidentiality regarding personnel matters. We strive to respect the privacy of our faculty and staff. When the board opted in March 2019 not to renew President Nichols’ contract, we observed customary confidentiality practices.

Now the District Court has ordered the university to make public certain documentation related to the board’s action. While we always seek to strike a sensitive balance between the transparency required of a publicly funded institution and employees’ rights to privacy, we accept the District Court’s direction.

In early 2019, the Board of Trustees was made aware of two instances when reports were made to human resources by university staff members regarding President Nichols. We retained an employment matters firm to do preliminary interviews and inquiry. The firm reported that the resulting inquiry identified multiple individual accounts or perspectives of a similar and consistent nature. Members of the university community who came forward were promised that UW would attempt to maintain confidentiality if at all possible -- another factor in our choice not to elaborate on the circumstances of the conclusion of Nichols’ presidency, and to keep the relevant documentation private.

Under the unique circumstances of this case, the District Court has now required us to modify that practice as to this specific matter, and we anticipate the District Court will release that documentation with names and identifying information redacted upon dissolution of its protective order.

While the board continues to believe a policy of confidentiality in personnel matters is most respectful to university employees, both current and former, we are confident the material shows our decision not to renew President Nichols’ contract reflected prudent judgment and was in the best interest of the University of Wyoming and its people.

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