This morning, I was doing a little rereading of a blog post—the one from September 2, in which I wrote about the first time our Ohio Court of Claims mediation process had been declared a failure. At that point of the saga, the university hadn’t been able to provide me with a copy of the hockey coach tape, and there was nothing left for us to do but bid our adieus and hang up.
Here are the sentences in that blog post that are currently speaking to my soul:
Oh, there’s one other option, I suppose. The university has indicated through their lawyer that the recording may well exist but is damaged, and they sent the following photo of a tape titled “HOCKEY TAPE #2 (EDIT).” (There wasn’t a tape labeled HOCKEY TAPE #1, and the tape that was in the same box was recorded over and unrelated to hockey.)
“Oh, yeah!” thought I. “The tape that was in the same box!”
Over the course of the summer and fall, I had no idea where university representatives were actually looking for the unposted Oral History Project recordings. I knew they were looking somewhere in University Archives, but I didn’t know the exact locations. If they found a tape, they wouldn’t tell me where it was found.
Granted, I had the Excel sheet listing over 2000 recordings, housed in 22 boxes, which was provided to me by the Office of General Counsel. But those recordings had been described as mostly “back-up records of files that were digitized,” though they said there might also be some originals. In June 2022, several of us had gone through those 22 boxes searching for a tape of Carl Knox’s former secretary. We weren’t yet aware that a tape of Miami hockey coaches had been conducted for the Oral History Project and that it, too, hadn’t been posted online.
Last week, I learned that the university had indeed found Hockey Tape #2 (EDIT) in box CDS 18. We still don’t know where Hockey Tape 1 (EDIT) was found. So when the university’s lawyer was describing another tape in the same box, was he discussing the contents of Miami Hockey Tape #2—the ostensibly unedited tape that was listed on line #1718 of the Excel sheet and the one I requested in December through my public records request?
I now present to you the university’s lawyer’s very detailed explanation of that tape, which he sent to my lawyer on August 9, 2022:
“For the ‘Hockey’ request, the University has identified two tapes. The first tape was recorded over. It is not labeled ‘hockey tape 1’ but it was in the box with the second hockey tape. The second hockey tape is damaged. Attached is a photo of the damaged tape for your reference. My understanding is that these tapes were not uploaded because the second tape was damaged. My understanding from the University is also that these tapes are a number of years old and that, at the time, the tapes were frequently reused for other projects. Apparently, the first tape only contains footage of a minor child playing a video game, which the University would not normally produce pursuant to a public records request. It is not clear who the minor child is, but it may have been a videorecording that was only made inadvertently, or to test the tape or the videorecorder when the footage was recorded.”
First, the lawyer’s explanation about the university reusing tapes for other projects is misleading. It’s true that the Oral History Project folks had at one time reused tapes, but only after they were converted to DVD. Also, that practice stopped in June 2007 at the request of John Millard, who oversaw Digital Initiatives.
The big revelation here is that the university played a tape that representatives had ostensibly thought was related to hockey, but that only contained footage of a child playing a video game. Although he doesn’t specify the tape’s title, he does state that it was in the same box as the damaged hockey tape, which we now know was box CDS 18.
Now, I’d like you to compare the lawyer’s remarks with a replay of what Aimee Smart of the Office of General Counsel had written to me last week:
“We see this request as a duplicate to your request from this past summer. We agree that the inventory log reflects that there is a tape labeled Miami Hockey Tape #2 in box CDS18. However, we searched this box when you made your initial request for the hockey tapes at the end of June 2022. When we reviewed box CDS18, we found one tape labeled Hockey Tape #2 (edit). There was not a second tape labeled Miami Hockey Tape #2 in that box. In response to your most recent request, University Archives reviewed all the boxes associated with the inventory log to see if it was somehow misfiled in one of them. The tape was not in any of the boxes. John Millard also conducted a thorough search of his department and was unable to locate a tape labeled Miami Hockey Tape #2. Accordingly, we are unable to provide you with a responsive record. Please be aware that we have searched all reasonable locations for the Oral History’s Hockey interview. We have provided you with the only two copies of the interview that we were able to locate. We will deny any further requests for copies of this same Oral History hockey interview.“
So the university’s lawyer said in August that they’d played the second tape but it had been recorded over, while the university said that they couldn’t locate the second tape back in June and that they still can’t locate it even though they’ve searched everywhere.
Same tape, two wildly different explanations. I don’t know who to believe anymore.