The relationship between Warwick University and BP is murky. Few in the know want to talk about it, and little information is in the public domain.
We’ve submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the University to discover a little more about the BP Archive and the relation it has to Warwick.
The questions we wanted answered were:
- Does BP pay any annual rent for the Archive space? According to documents from the Land Registry, they pay none.
- Why was ownership of the Modern Records Centre seemingly transferred from the ownership of the University to then-trustees in 1996? And why has it seemingly not been transferred to new trustees since?
We also wanted to get access to:
- Any further agreements between the University and BP which are not accessible through the Land Registry, from 1990 to the present day.
- Correspondence between senior management and BP regarding discussions they’ve had about the Archive, and any discussions they’ve had about Fossil Free Warwick.
We submitted the FOI on Sept. 20. Under the FOIA 2000, a public authority has 20 working days to respond to a request. It is now 36 working days since we submitted the request, and we have still received no response, in violation of the law.
After the first 20 days elapsed, we contacted Warwick to chase them up. They claimed they were seeking clarification on the wording of the request, and since they hadn’t heard back from us, were going to terminate the process. We never received this ‘clarification email’, as is shown on the publicly available correspondence: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/bp_and_bp_archive#outgoing-486357.
Since their demand for clarification only pertained to part of the original request, we expected a response from the University to other parts of the request. We never received this. We offered our clarification on the remaining parts of the request, and expected to hear back with the University’s response. We are still waiting.
Universities in general – and Warwick is a leader in the pack – are notoriously opaque, and do anything they can to avoid releasing information under the FOI Act. We know of numerous cases where Warwick has ignored emails, failed to respond within the statutory limit, and wielded ‘exemptions’ under the law which push the boundaries of logic and legality. The ‘Legal Compliance Team’ is seemingly there to ensure Warwick releases as little information as possible, whilst cloaking such anti-democratic processes in the veneer of legality.
Warwick, what are you trying to hide?