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UO Public Records To Be Made Available To The Public

In what has been described as a “total victory” for Bill Harbaugh, media enthusiasts, and lovers of administrative transparency everywhere, UO has waived the first $200 of its retrieval fee for journalists trying to access public university records.

Dear All –

We have good news on UO public records access. The UO Public Records Office has agreed to waive the first $200 in fees for “public interest” public records requests from the media. This includes requests from the traditional media and new media such as bloggers. The media will get this $200 waiver automatically, because of their long established role in helping make democracy work, by getting public information to the public. Requests from those seeking records for primarily commercial use or private benefit will of course still have to pay the actual costs.

The new policy should be announced at the UO PR Office website here shortly, and it takes effect today, 9/15/2011. This change was the result of talks between Dave Hubin of the President’s office, Liz Denecke of the PR Office, and the Senate Transparency Committee on how to improve transparency and trust at UO.

To my knowledge the Oregon DOJ and now UO are the first Oregon state agencies to adopt a sensible fee waiver policy of this sort. I think this new policy will increase the supply of public records about UO and lower the cost to UO of providing them. UO will be able to spend less time estimating costs and responding to questions about fees, and more time helping make the public’s documents public.
No institution is perfect. It is inevitable that some public records released under this policy will embarrass UO. I believe any such embarrassments will be followed by steps to fix problems, and that the long term result will be an increase in trust within UO, and between the state and UO. That is, of course the rationale for Oregon’s PR law and other state and federal “FOIA” laws.

The STC will meet 9/20 from 10:30-12:00 in room 410 PLC to discuss the details of implementation of this improvement, and ways to further improve public records access at UO. I will send a summary of this meeting afterwards. This is a public meeting, and the media (new and old!) are invited to attend.

I hope this change, and other changes the Transparency Committee will work with Ms Denecke to implement soon will become a model for other state agencies. With that in mind the STC is collecting data on the before and after costs and demand for records, and we will make a public report on this in the future.

Bill Harbaugh
Chair, UO Senate Transparency Committee

Professor of Economics
1285 University of Oregon
Eugene, Oregon 97403


The Oregon Commentator takes this news with much relish (and mustard) and pledges to use the new transparency to give our University a new understanding of the phrase “wardrobe malfunction.”


[Edited for correctness 9/20/11 – Thanks Lyzi!]

  1. Z says:

    The university often charges fees far, far exceeding $200. While it won’t make all requests free, this policy change will make it a lot easier for members of the public to get information without paying a fee.

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