Obama’s Columbia Records

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

It looks like President Obama will go to the polls for the last time with the voters still in the dark in respect of his years at Columbia University. The question mark over that period of his life has always rankled us. The New York Times in 2007 assigned one of its finest reporters, in Janny Scott, to scour the university for clues in respect of the president. No doubt she came up against the same stone wall that our Ross Goldberg came up against — namely the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which Columbia has cited to excuse its refusal to divulge any of the information it holds on the president it supports for re-election.

When we inquired, which was in 2008, Columbia couldn’t have been more tightlipped if it were holding details of war-time troop movements. Reported Mr. Goldberg: “A spokesman for the university, Brian Connolly, confirmed that Mr. Obama spent two years at Columbia College and graduated in 1983 with a major in political science. He did not receive honors, Mr. Connolly said, though specific information on his grades is sealed.” That is really about limit of what the voters will know from the Columbia administration about the future president’s years there, unless he signs some sort of waiver to authorize the rapid release of what the university has on file.

To mark the principle, the Sun offers herewith a draft waiver that we believe the president could sign to enable the press and the voters to get a look at his undergraduate record. The president hasn’t signed it. We are not lawyers, and are not offering legal advice. But it looks to us like this ought to address Columbia’s concerns in respect of federal law. The law was spearheaded years ago by one of our favorite political figures, James Buckley, who won his set on the Conservative line in the Empire State. Whatever merits FERPA might or might not have, it was never intended to cast a secret cover over the record of individuals we elect to the highest office in the land.

Let us just add that the Sun is not with the birthers. Our interest in Mr. Obama’s undergraduate record does not spring from doubts about his birth in Hawaii or his parentage or his constitutional qualifications to be president. The voters decided that long ago. It is directed to what he studied and wrote at Columbia, though we recommend the President waive FERPA in respect of any records on him Columbia holds. Whether this would have any impact on the vote that is about to take place, we have no idea. But it has bothered us for years that this information has been kept beyond the reach of the voters, particularly in an era when it is the liberals who are always carrying on about the virtues of transparency. Hence our draft waiver. If Mr. Obama doesn’t want to sign it before he goes to the polls, let him sign it promptly afterward as a gift to the historians.

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