What was supposed to be the opening bid in the contentious renegotiating process of an Obama-era regulation meant to protect federal student loan borrowers, mainly from for-profit colleges, quickly devolved Monday into a marathon debate over whether the event should be livestreamed.
Nearly seven hours into the public meeting, negotiators, including representatives from the entire higher education policy spectrum and Education Department officials, still hadn’t agreed on whether or not the conference should be recorded or streamed live online – an issue that wasn’t even on the docket for consideration.
Charlotte Hancock, the program director for the left-leaning Center for American Progress’s Higher Ed Not Debt campaign, began livestreaming the meeting on Facebook just before it began, around 9 a.m.
She was approached by a "facilitator," someone who acts as a quasi-master of ceremonies and represents the concerns of the Department of Education and the chosen negotiators throughout the regulatory process, in an exchange captured on the livestream.
“This is not able to be livestreamed, recorded, in any way,” the facilitator can be heard saying.
“I was told this is going to be public and we did this last time,” Hancock replies, speaking about past negotiated rule-making sessions.
“The public is permitted to be here, but it’s not going to be recorded,” the facilitator says.
Hancock then asks to speak to someone else, and when a second facilitator approaches and asks whether she has questions about the policy, Hancock says: “Yes, since this is open to the public, I thought we would be able to livestream it for the public. How are people who are, like, students in Texas supposed to follow this?”
“As facilitators, it’s our understanding that any members can show up, but it’s not to be streamed and it’s not to be recorded,” the second facilitator replies, reiterating the first.
“So, only people in D.C. are able to follow it if they actually, like, can get here?” Hancock asks.
“Unfortunately, yes,” the second facilitator says. “That’s our understanding. We understand your concerns.”
When Hancock asks whether there is anyone else she can speak to about the issue, the second facilitator says he can ask the Education Department, “but that’s what they’ve asked us to do.”
Hancock eventually relents and ends the livestream, but not before inadvertently charting an entirely new course for the meeting, where negotiators and Education Department officials were still debating the issue nearly seven hours later having not breathed a whisper of policy debate about the regulation at hand.
In a truly bizarre moment, it became clear that a third-party transcriber was transcribing the session for someone who requested an accommodation from the Education Department – presumably because of a disability – but that transcription, department officials said, would not be made public and also would not be provided to the department itself.
Notably, the move comes as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her department have been criticized for a lack of transparency. Department officials did not return a request for comment and information about how negotiated rule-making sessions are typically made available to the public.
In June, DeVos announced plans to halt a pair of Obama-era regulations meant to protect federal student loan borrowers, mainly from for-profit colleges, and to provide relief to students defrauded by them.
Student loan advocates and a large swath of the higher education policy community have framed the moves as rolling back protections for first-generation students, veterans and service members, as well as students of colors, all of whom have been disproportionately targeted by for-profit schools.
Source : https://www.usnews.com/news/education-news/articles/2017-11-13/federal-education-panel-sidetracked-by-squabble-over-livestreaming