Illinois Freedom of Information Act
All requests for access to documents under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act must be referred to the Office of Public Affairs for response.
The Illinois Freedom of Information Act took effect on July 1, 1984, and applies to the University of Illinois as a state institution or "public body." The Act requires that records regardless of physical form or characteristics (e.g., microfilms, tapes, recordings, emails, etc.) possessed by or under the control of any public body be made accessible to anyone who wishes to see them, except as otherwise provided in the Act. The Act rests upon the principle of the people's right to know and, therefore, is based on a presumption of access.
The General Assembly's intent as specified in the Act makes clear that as a matter of public policy any person is:
". . .entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts and policies of those who represent them as public officials and public employees consistent with the terms of this Act. Such access is necessary to enable the people to fulfill their duties of discussing public issues fully and freely, making informed political judgments and monitoring government to ensure that it is being conducted in the public interest.
"This Act is not intended to be used to violate individual privacy, nor for the purpose of furthering a commercial enterprise, or to disrupt the duly-undertaken work of any public body independent of the fulfillment of any of the fore-mentioned rights of the people to access to information.
"This Act is not intended to create an obligation on the part of any public body to maintain or prepare any public record which was not maintained or prepared by such public body at the time when this Act becomes effective, except as otherwise required by applicable local, State or federal law."
Under the provisions of the Act, requests to inspect or obtain copies of public records must be allowed, unless such records (or portions thereof) fall within one or more of the exemptions to rights of access enumerated in the Act.
The following are some of the exemptions having relevance for the University of Illinois:
- Information which, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, including files and personal information maintained on students, employees, and applicants for positions. (Such information may be disclosed if the individual subject of the information gives written consent).
- Test questions, scoring keys, and other examination data used to administer an academic examination or determine the qualifications of an applicant for employment.
- Information received by the University under its procedures for the evaluation of faculty members by their academic peers.
- Administrative or technical information associated with automated data processing operations and any other information that, if disclosed, would jeopardize the security of the system or data contained therein.
- Information concerning the University's adjudication of student or employee grievance or disciplinary cases.
- Course materials or research materials used by faculty members.
- Preliminary drafts, notes, recommendations, memoranda, and other records in which opinions are expressed or policies or actions are formulated (except that a specific record or relevant portion thereof shall not be exempt when the record is publicly cited and identified by the President of the University).
Records Access Officer
The Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs is the Public Records Officer for the Urbana-Champaign campus. All inquiries made for access to campus information under the Freedom of Information Act must be made to the Public Records Officer. All relevant materials must be turned over for review by the Public Records Officer and consultation with Legal Counsel, if necessary.
In the normal course of business, University offices receive countless numbers of inquiries requesting information. The passage of this Act and the establishment of University guidelines for its implementation in no way are intended to inhibit the normal exchange of information which occurs at this University. However, if a request is made to any campus unit for information under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act it must be referred to the Public Records Officer.
Notwithstanding our desire to continue business as usual in terms of requests for information, if offices receive a request which appears to be covered by one of the exemptions in the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, units must consult with the Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs before responding to the inquiry.
Copies of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act are available in the Room 200D of the Document Library and in the Office of the Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs, 304 Swanlund Administration Building, 601 East John Street, Champaign, Illinois 61820.