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Student media charged more than $1,000 by university for FOIA request


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Central Michigan Life was charged $1,055.52 by Central Michigan University for 33 documents with more than 1,300 pages after filing a Freedom of Information Act request on Oct. 22, 2018.

The student publication received the heavily-redacted documents two months later on Dec. 13, 2018. 

In today's edition, CM Life published multiple stories regarding its investigation into Phi Sigma Phi’s permanent removal from CMU. 

This is what it took to acquire public documents regarding PSP and the investigation into the fraternity. What follows is a breakdown of the FOIA request’s status over the course of 52 days, including an example of the cost estimates.

Editor-in-Chief Emma Dale physically submitted a Freedom of Information Request on Oct. 22 to the General Counsel office, located at 1303 West Campus Drive. 

The request, however, was not processed until the next day, despite Dale dropping it off on Monday, Oct. 22. CM Life received a response about her request six business days after she dropped it off. 

After checking in with General Counsel, Kathy Kelly, senior legal assistant cited a “mix up.” 

“Our office mistakenly recorded your FOI request as received on Oct. 23, 2018 — which would mean a response is due today — rather than Oct. 22, which required a response yesterday, Oct. 29,” Freedom of Information Officer Mary Roy said in an Oct. 30 email. “We apologize for this oversight.” 

Due to the amount of records that the FOIA requested, a 10-business day extension was taken. 

On Nov. 12, the final day of the extension, CM Life was sent a response regarding a good faith deposit of 50 percent of the total estimated cost of the request. 

The university required CM Life to pay $427.24 before General Counsel could further process the request. Until payment was received, processing of the request was paused. 

The estimation form attached to the email noted it would take 16 total hours for Tom Idema, director of Student Conduct and Joe Finney, assistant director of Student Conduct to collect the documents at $30.55 per hour and $25 per hour, respectively. CM Life was charged for their workdays. 

It was also estimated that it would take General Counsel eight hours to redact the identifying information at the rate of $51.26 per hour, totaling $410.08. 

The estimation form approximated that the full request would cost $854.48. In the end, CM Life paid $1,055.52, which was $201.04 more than what was originally estimated. 

The final cost estimation form noted that it took General Counsel four more hours to redact the information than they originally estimated. 

CM Life's final payment was $628.28, totaling $1,055.52.

Dale picked up the documents in person on Dec. 13, 2018. The records were placed on a DVD with a cover letter. 

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