The University of North Texas System has challenged the release of a brand audit document that looks at what people think of the three UNT schools and their marketing strategies.
Renaldo Stowers, senior associate general counsel for the UNT System, protested the release of the document to the Denton-Record Chronicle and asked the state attorney general to let UNT keep the entire document private.
The request for a ruling could be a stalling tactic, but the information should be made public, said Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.
“I think it’s very questionable when a public university is talking about a marketing study that has to do with public perception, and is going to impact how they might spend public dollars,” she said. “It makes common sense that this would be made available to the public.”
The university hired outside firm Carnegie Dartlet to conduct the audit in September 2018.
According to the contract between the UNT System and the company, the project guidelines were to create personality definitions for all schools in the system, research and create master positioning and training for a messaging platform, conduct a collateral audit of marketing efforts on all campuses and conduct a perception study to find out what people think about the three UNT schools.
The university system paid $142,000 for the audit, plus billed expenses, according to the contract.
The contract with Carnegie Dartlet was requested after the brand study was mentioned during a UNT System Board of Regents meeting Feb. 14. It was released the same day.
During the meeting, UNT President Neal Smatresk talked about how the study will help the university tell better stories about its students and community.
“As an institution, you have to tell your story. But you can’t tell your story unless you know who you are,” he said. “And we are finding out who we are, we’re finding out what we believe we are today and what we have to become tomorrow.”
The Denton Record-Chronicle requested the finalized brand audit document March 5, after G. Brint Ryan, chairman of the UNT System Board of Regents, posted on Twitter he was reviewing the document. Alice Hawes, the public information coordinator for the system’s Office of General Counsel, responded to the request at the end of the March 15, the final day to send a response to a request.
The system’s letter to the attorney general’s office cited four sections of Texas Government Code that it says make the document exempt from public disclosure: information made confidential by law in Section 552.101, confidentiality of trade secrets and commercial or financial information under Section 552.110, confidentiality of certain economic development information under Section 552.131 and that it contains information relating to competition or bidding under Section 552.104.