Few can shed light on the significance of Sunshine Day and how it relates to their rights as citizens.
“In the past, we’ve had dismal statistics in the past about the general understanding of North Carolina Law by North Carolinians,” said Brooke Barnett, executive director of the Elon University’s Sunshine Center of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition and associate professor of communications.
This year, the Sunshine Center again hosted Sunshine Day, an annual event organized to emphasize the importance of government transparency and the freedom of information.
I think it’s important that everyone has access to public records and even more important that records can be accessed electronically.
-Elon senior Julia Murphy
More than 10 government experts came to Elon March 14 to speak about the positive aspects of North Carolina government and its policy regarding access to public records.
“Every year I’m routinely told that this information is just for journalists,” said Barnett. “Really, this information is for everyone. We want people to learn how to get the information they’re entitled to get.”
While the event attracts members of the press, non-profit organizations and the government, its significance often goes unknown to students. Many of the students who attended this year were required to do so by a professor.
heir government,” Irvin said. “(They should) appreciate it because citizens in a lot of countries don’t have that privilege.”
Video by Emily Haring, Multimedia Reporter.[/box]
“I knew little about Sunshine Day or the Sunshine Center before attending, but I researched its mission statement to better understand it,” said senior Julia Murphy, who attended with her Multimedia Journalism class.
Murphy found the panel dedicated to the North Carolina public records law to be particularly relevant.
“As a journalism student, I understand the need for public records, either for background information or statistics,” she said. “I think it’s important that everyone has access to public records and even more important that records can be accessed electronically.”
The majority of students in attendance were associated with the School of Communications, but Barnett hopes to expand the scope of student presence next year.
“It’s hard to attract a student audience to this event,” she said. “We’re at a real crossroad at how to communicate with (students). We have social media and, of course, a website that we keep updated, and we’ve tried marketing with conventional media, too.”
But Barnett was encouraged by the engagement of students at this year’s event.
“I’ve heard from professors that the students really learned a lot,” she said. “To get students to care, we try to make these issues (of open government) alive through stories that will relate to students’ lives. Constitutional law-based issues are of importance to everybody.”
Although she also attended with her Multimedia Journalism class, junior Mariah Irvin recognized that the Sunshine Day panels and discussions were relevant to all students and town residents.
“I’d tell other students that it’s important to know that they have the right to access information from t