New ‘FOIA Shaming’ Site Calls Out Public Records Scofflaws

March 14, 2013

Our friends at the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), creators of the highly entertaining and informative FERPA Fact Tumblr site, have launched a companion naming-and-shaming initiative: FOIA Shaming.

The philosophy behind FOIA Shaming is simple: Where FERPA Fact cast sunlight on colleges improperly asserting their powers under FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), FOIA Shaming calls out colleges that make a mockery of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the law that gives the public access to government records more generally.  

In its debut, the SPLC site exposes public colleges and universities that make a joke of their duties by charging outrageously high fees to provide the records they are obligated to make available-if not for free, then at a reasonable cost. As one account goes, regarding a FOIA request at Georgia Perimeter College:

"They said they were ‘shocked’ by my open records request. I was shocked they tried to charge me $2,963. 140 days later… I got the records for $291"

And SPLC has seen worse. Much worse. Like that time Johnson County Community College in Kansas tried to charge $24,000 to produce documents in response to a series of requests.

Stories like this highlight just how much need there is for sunlight in this area, and I’m glad more of that will be coming courtesy of SPLC and FOIA Shaming. Shame on!