University Of North Dakota Won't Come Clean On Domain Names They Own

UPDATE: A few hours after I wrote this post UND discovered they did have a list of domains they’d registered after all.

A committee working on behalf of the University of North Dakota is pushing through a process to determine the school’s new nickname (or the possibility that the school will continue with no nickname at all). As that plays out many have noticed that the domain name flickertails.com already forwards to the UND sports website.

That led many people to believe that the fix was in on the nickname. Flickertails is a name used by UND in the past, and is one many prefer to replace the now-retired “Fighting Sioux.” Obviously, since the university has paid to register the domain, they must feel that it’s a possibility for the new nickname.

So the question is, what other domains has the University of North Dakota registered? That’s a question UND spokesman Peter Johnson doesn’t seem to want to answer.

On May 6th I asked Johnson for a list of the domain names owned by UND. “We own lots of domain names as a regionally large university with lots of web presence (more than 40,000 pages) and a number of units with their own servers or who operate through other servers,” Johnson told me in a May 8th email response. “Our lead web person says we don’t have a list of domain names to provide.”

Uh, right. That’s a little hard to believe.

A SAB reader named C.T. Marhula was also interested in the domain names. He got in touch with me today saying he also had problems obtaining a list of domain names owned by the school.

“I was retained by a client to obtain a list of domain nicknames referred to in Herald articles,” Marhula told me today. “Given past excellent cooperation by UND, I expected a 10 minute turn around.  Now, days later, they say they don’t have this data.”

Marhula forwarded me an email he received from Johnson with today’s date, and it was similar to the response I got. “I talked to the consultant.  He said there is no list,” Johnson told Marhula.  “Ergo, there is no list to share (provide).  Nor does UND have a list of the domain names that we own, per our head web person.”

Johnson is being a bit coy here. One of the caveats to North Dakota’s open records laws is that public entities do not have to create a record for you. Meaning that while you may be requesting public information, they do not necessarily have to compile that information for you.

In this instance, both Marhula and I requested a list of domain names owned by the University of North Dakota. Even though those registrations are absolutely a public record, Johnson is denying the requests based on the fact that there’s apparently no document (spreadsheet, etc.) listing the domains.

That’s evasive, to say the least. As someone who has registered a few internet domains in the past, it’s pretty easy to go to the registration service you use (it appears as though UND is using eNom) and print out a list of the domains registered.

The University of North Dakota has made a big show out of being transparent about this process, but there’s nothing transparent about this.

What, exactly, are they hiding?

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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