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Title:A decade of decisions: An evaluation of the implementation of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act by public universities
Author(s):Woodbury, Marsha Cook
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Rodgers, Frederick A.
Department / Program:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Education, Higher
Abstract:This dissertation is an evaluation study of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in Illinois and how that act was implemented by public universities, particularly by the largest university in the state, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Universities are used as a focus for the evaluation, for if freedom of information is not found there, where else can a citizen expect it?
The FOIA went through a decade of incubation before becoming law. The author chronicles this process of debate, bargaining, and amending. The author describes the acrimonious FOIA policy-making process in the Illinois legislature, that led to vagueness in wording and allowed for no enforcement or evaluation. The Act left latitude for interpretation and implementation.
The author examines the complexity of information policy and the demands of federal, state, and local laws on universities. These institutions must balance all their roles, from policing the streets to recycling garbage to lobbying in the legislature to handling information.
This dissertation/evaluation of the FOIA takes the viewpoint of the legislators and the consumers. Every FOIA request calls for a decision, forcing the administrator to take action. As part of her methodology, the author used FOIA requests to every public university in Illinois and the Big Ten schools. The author asked for data that the Act required each public body to keep on hand; universities varied broadly in how they complied. One university altered FOIA copies of records, and, when their deed was discovered, quickly released true copies of the originals.
In Illinois, all letters of denial are open to public review. The author attempted to collect every denial from every public university, along with other records, but the task proved difficult because of institutional impediments, most often in the form of poor record-keeping. This evaluation attempts to analyze the errors, as well as unanticipated results, such as the frequent use of blind copies. Many universities use the public affairs/relations office to handle FOIA.
In creating the FOIA, the legislature left no one in charge of overseeing it. In effect, each requester became the attorney general for the state, with the costly option of taking cases to court when not obtaining satisfaction from the institution. Costs and barriers to litigation are discussed. The author analyzes different ways of measuring the usefulness of the law, and recommends changes at the institutional and legislative levels.
Issue Date:1995
Rights Information:Copyright 1995 Woodbury, Marsha Cook
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9543773
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9543773

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