How ‘the public is priced out of public records’ by Michigan universities

In Michigan, transparency comes at a cost—and a seemingly arbitrary one at that.

The Society of Professional Journalists chapter at Central Michigan University recently conducted a FOIA audit of the state’s 15 public universities. It asked for a year’s worth of information on expenses from the university presidents and governing boards, and also police reports on campus sexual assaults. The goal: to compare how universities respond to requests for public information, and how much they charge.

No university denied the requests. But the price to fulfill all of them totaled more than $20,000. That ranged from Eastern Michigan University and two other schools that offered records for free, to the University of Michigan, where it would cost $2,774 just for presidential spending records. UM attributed that cost to its estimate that it would take 46.5 staff hours to search for records, and many more to review and duplicate documents. Continue…