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A telling silence

Purdue makes one more try to quash report


What is it that Purdue University doesn't understand about the word “no”?

State and federal courts both have ruled that an investigative report on why IPFW Chancellor Mike Wartell was forced out of office cannot be kept secret. Yet Purdue slogs on, wasting more money on its crusade to keep the report hidden from Indiana citizens.

Purdue claims that the “Trimble Report” is protected by attorney-client privilege. Though attorney John Trimble prepared the report on Wartell's removal, he was hired as an investigator, as U.S. District Judge Robert L. Miller determined last week in ordering that the report be made available to Wartell and his lawyers.

Now Purdue is asking the court for a protective order that would prevent anyone but the former chancellor and his legal team from seeing the report.

The university maintains “that the Trimble Report contains confidential, private information, including related to third parties.”

When an institution goes to these lengths to protect information that clearly falls into the public category, it's hard not to think there's something fairly significant in the report. No one except a few Purdue officials knows what that is, at this point.

But beyond the inherent public interest in seeing that officials aren't allowed to pick and choose what information they're comfortable releasing, there are some specific issues that the Trimble Report might shed light on.

For one, there is the question of why Purdue decided to enforce its executive-retirement-at-65 provision against Wartell and not grant him a waiver, as it had for other university leaders in the past. Was Wartell, as he has alleged, a victim of discrimination and harassment?

What role does the report show France Cordova, the Purdue president, played in the efforts to get Wartell to step down? Does then-Gov. and soon-to-be Purdue President Mitch Daniels show up in the narrative?

Eventually, Purdue will run out of legal tricks, and the Trimble Report will become public. Too bad the time, energy and money spent on fighting its release couldn't have been spent on, say, education.