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UCLA Turns Over Video of Contentious Event with Treasury Secretary After Public Records Requests Flood in

Photo credit: UCLA

The University of California Los Angeles has turned over video footage of a contentious event with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in which he was interrupted by heckling student protesters. The university initially refused to publish the material after Mnuchin’s “revoked his consent” for it to be shared publicly, but the school eventually gave in after a flood of public requests from the First Amendment Coalition and other groups.

The moderated discussion with Mnuchin, hosted by the Burkle Center for International Relations at UCLA, took place on Feb. 26. During the event, audience members shouted heckles at Mnuchin, and several protesters were removed by police officers. After the event, in an unusual move, Mnuchin “retracted his permission” for the university to release video or audio of the event. After UCLA refused to publish the video, groups—including FAC—responded by filing a flurry of requests under the California Public Records Act seeking the footage.

FAC filed its request on March 1, pointing out that UCLA’s obligations to release records under the CPRA cannot be controlled or influenced by a third party. “The records were created by UCLA and are in possession of UCLA, a state body subject to CPRA,” FAC’s request stated. “No exemption provides a third party to “revoke consent” or control access to such records.”

Just over a week later, on the evening of Friday, March 9, UCLA responded to FAC’s request, saying they had posted the video online after Mnuchin had a change of heart. “UCLA received consent from the U.S. Treasury Department on March 9, 2018 to post the full video of Secretary Mnuchin’s recent presentation at UCLA to the Burkle Center’s website,” the letter stated. FAC Executive Director David Snyder says it is “deeply concerning” that a public university is taking cues from a third-party as to whether they should release public records.

“This event took place at a public institution and the video was collected by a state body,” Snyder said. “It’s troubling that the university initially caved to the request of a third party to withhold public records, and even more troubling that when they did eventually release the footage, they claimed to do so because they ‘received consent’ from the Treasury Department. Mnuchin, or any third party, doesn’t—or shouldn’t— have any control over UCLA’s obligations under the CPRA.”

David Snyder
FAC Executive Director, First Amendment Coalition
415-460-5060 | dsnyder@firstamendmentcoalition.org

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