College of DuPage (ECWd) –
Talk about hard-headed…
The College of DuPage had previously denied a request for email addresses for students of COD. They did produce them for staff, faculty, etc, just not for the students. COD claimed “FERPA” and “personal information” exemptions in FOIA and the federal law. The problem is that neither of those exemptions apply.
I believe this is ultimately the school’s attempt at keeping information from the students that pertain to COD, and by claiming exemptions COD is simply delaying the inevitable. COD was even given the opportunity to simply comply with FOIA based on another AG Binding Opinion and a precedent setting court case.
The previous opinion the college is aware of is Public Access Binding Opinion 12-003 and deals with Chicago State University denying student information because of “the number of hostile and negative articles that were written [by the requester] about Chicago State University, its students, faculty, and administrators” also claiming that “a reasonable person would find the use of his or her name published in association with one of the Tribune’s negative articles highly objectionable.”
Guess what? The public body does not have the authority to determine when not to release information based upon who would receive it or what would be written about it.
In their determination against Chicago State University, the AG interpreted FERPA by citing two cases where the Court determined that the only penalty under FERPA for unauthorized release of educational records was the potential loss of federal funding which prompts the question of whether FERPA “specifically prohibits” the release of information under Section 7(1)(a) of FOIA.
As with my FOIA request, having not requested any “educational records” the PAC looked at the definition of “directory information” as defined in FERPA, which states it includes but is not limited to: name, address, telephone listing, electronic mail address, photograph, date and place of birth, field of study, and a few other items. Additionally, FERPA say that an educational institution “may disclose” directory information, but does not mandate it be disclosed.
This is where FOIA comes in play. FOIA exempts records that are specifically prohibited from disclosure by Federal or State law. FERPA is a Federal law, but it does not specifically prohibit the release of the information I requested, therefore the requested records must be provided. Just as a reminder, a college email address is not a personal email address, it is a public email address.
So instead of simply providing the records, as they will eventually be forced to provide, COD chooses to spend public money on an attorney to fight disclosing what the law says they must disclose. Remember that when Breuder or Birt decide to tell everyone how much all these FOIA requests are costing the college, when the fact is they can simply comply with the law and avoid spending money on legal fees.