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Posted on Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 10:42 a.m.

University of Michigan student newspaper questions university FOIA fees

By Kellie Woodhouse

The Michigan Daily reported today that the University of Michigan charges particularly high fees for fulfilling some Freedom of Information Act requests.

Under Michigan FOIA law, the university is required to give certain information when requested by the media or another party. The act does have certain exemptions, such as personnel records, and the university is permitted to charge a fee to cover the cost of some requests.

The Daily article questions whether the high fees U-M sometimes charges are appropriate.

The Daily was told it would cost $1,240 to provide the number of parking tickets given by the U-M Department of Public Safety each day for a year.

However other Big Ten schools give much lower estimates. Michigan State University said the Daily's request would cost $250 to fulfill, while University of Iowa, Indiana University, Ohio State University and University of Nebraska fulfilled the request for free, according to the Daily.

"When we see these jackpot prices quoted … either the school just doesn’t want the records seeing the light of day, or the school’s record-keeping is a disaster,” Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, told the Daily.

Read the full article here.



Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 11:44 p.m.

Pat Sellinger plays all sorts of games to deny public records. Try asking for the video of the DWI arrest of Darryl Stonum, a football player. The University will tell you that it costs in excess of $500 because they have to buy software to redact any exempt information. That is just stonewalling. Try asking for a police report on a football player who threatened to rape a victim again if she pressed charges against another football player. They redact every name in the report, including people who only witnessed the threat, claiming it would violate there privacy to be known to be a witness! Also, Pat Sellinger claims that once she gives you a price, she has complied with the response deadlines and they can take 3 months on average to actually give you any documents. I had one case where they took more than a year. They also will not give any kind of description of the document so that you could tell whether or not it even qualifies for the exemption. If they claim attorney/client privilege and you ask for the license of the attorney to practice in Michigan (UM has lots of people with JD degrees who are not licensed to practice law), Pat will tell you that there license is exempt under attorney/client privilege. You can give them a Supreme Court decision that is nearly identical to your request and they will still deny you because they know very few people will take them to court. Of course the FOIA Office's real mission is to protect the University Administration from scandal.

Kai Petainen

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 12:58 a.m.

i filed a foia for evidence relating to the spill that i saw. they gave me the police report, but they did not give me the photo of the evidence that is now my avatar photo. that photo was given to me by another source.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 11:24 p.m.

it's amazing... i watch Michigan Daily challenge UofM on difficult questions. i'm not saying they are right nor wrong, but they do challenge UofM. why don't I see the same ferociousness with the Ann Arbor News?

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 10:35 p.m.

Not surprising the Daily is standing up on this issue when in the past has had a member of its editorial advisory board include someone who lead the University fight against Ann Arbor News FOIA requests. Glad we have a real newspaper in this town who isn't afraid of standing up to power.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 11:22 p.m.

bring back Ed. he was the king of FOIA. oh wait... they got rid of him.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 8:24 p.m.

here are my Cliff Notes: Michigan State University : $250 University of Iowa: free Indiana University: free Ohio State University: free University of Nebraska: free University of Michigan: $1,240 "… either the school just doesn't want the records seeing the light of day, or the school's record-keeping is a disaster,"


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 8:06 p.m.

Gotta pay those big pay raises somehow....

hut hut

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 4:27 p.m.

There would be little need for FOIA if bureaucracies and bureaucrats were open, honest and responsive to the people who pay the bills.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 4:26 p.m.

They've got to mark it up a little bit right, to keep the bosses happy? Mr. Burns was pretty mad at Homer when he failed to mark-up the plutonium he sold to the Iraqi's....


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 4:16 p.m.

in the late 1980s and early '90s we referred to the U-M as the Kremlin - they simply did not like to share info much like certain presidental administrations, they provide a mirage of transparancy and this is a public instiution - funded by tax dollars makes you wonder what they feel they need to hide


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 4:09 p.m.

Hmm. Maybe I should just read the Daily instead. The writing and editing reminds me of days gone by, compared to this blog.