Student Journalists Sue Community College For Ridiculously High Fees On Open Records Request

from the avoiding-open-records dept

With various open records and freedom of information laws, many government organizations don’t like the fact that they may have to reveal things that can be seen as embarrassing. Sometimes they try to get around this simply by refusing to disclose things they’re legally obliged to, but that can backfire. So a sneakier way of hiding is to simply claim that the “cost” associated with retrieving the requested information is quite high. Most open records laws allow the agency to pass on any reasonable costs (and usually there are ways to get exemptions from those fees).

However, it appears that the student journalists at Johnson County Community College in Kansas were pretty shocked when the university told the student paper that it would cost $24,130.72 to provide staff emails and documents requested by the students. In a related issue, a request was made for all emails between two individuals over a seven month period… and the college responded that it would cost $47,426 to fulfill the request. After thinking that seemed crazy, the journalists resubmitted the request, but asked for just the emails between those two individuals for a single day, chosen at random, along with a list of all the open records requests the school had received… and was told that request would cost $23,630.96. So, then the journalists sent another request dropping the open records list, and just choosing a single day (one day after the one in the previous request) and was told to get just those emails it would cost $9,745.96… even though the total number of emails was around 20.

The school claims that it would cost that much because they’d have to spend $5,250 to contract with an outside agency for 25 hours of work to get the emails. The students (along with the Student Press Law Center) believe that it’s really about a college simply putting forth bogus fees to avoid having to comply with open records requests. Thus, they’re now suing the college for failing to obey the Kansas Open Records Act, which requires only reasonable fees to retrieve the information requested.



Filed Under: , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Student Journalists Sue Community College For Ridiculously High Fees On Open Records Request”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
32 Comments
Josh in CharlotteNCsays:

Re:

Both. Definitely both.

The school claims that it would cost that much because they’d have to spend $5,250 to contract with an outside agency for 25 hours of work to get the emails.

$210 per hour? Seriously? For standard email admin duties?

That’s over 5 times what I make per hour in information security at a major bank.

Yogisays:

Hire me!

I would be perfectly willing to retrieve those emails at the aforementioned price + a 10% fee due to the difficulty of finding specific emails from a specific date in a mail folder using the in-built search function of the email program.I estimate at least 48 hours of laughing my butt off.

Look, if the administrators are this stupid, how good is this college anyway??

AJsays:

If it takes a school 47 tho to look up emails between two people that work for the school, I would seriously start thinking about the competency of that institution.

Your average user can log in, sort by sender, and dump the emails to a file in less than a minute. IT should be able to do it at least just as fast, and for anyone on the network.

I hope the students win this one…

Rikuosays:

  1. Open web browser, browse to college email server.
  2. Type in username and password
  3. Search by date/name/whatever.
  4. Copy and paste/print off emails at around 20c per b/w page.

    If we take that 20c and do 47,426 divided by 0.2
    we get a grand total of 237,130 pages!

    Yep, some of the college professors and faculty MUST have hundreds of thousands of pages of emails in their inbox, in order for this to make sense.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

More incidental proof proving my theory that power seems to cause what appears to be brain damage in people.

So I am guessing there are some deep dark secrets at this school, and releasing these records would be the tip of the iceberg.

The current requests in the lawsuit have evolved from an original request by Rachel Kimbrough, current editor in chief at The Campus Ledger student newspaper at JCCC. Clem said Kimbrough was working on a story about the closing of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and departure of program director Jason Rozelle.

Yep there can not be anything bad in there… blink

They need an outside firm to access their backup tapes, is this standard in the industry now?

You would think that someone would have written some software for public institutions that uses all of the technology we have now to facilitate records requests to make sure they are always easily available. But then that goes against the idea of people in power being responsible.

Cloksinsays:

Just ridiculous

I’m a network admin, and about a year ago we had certain emails subpeonaed by the FBI, emails dating back over ten years, specific to one particular vendor, to and/or from anyone and everyone, past or present in the company that may have had communications with this vendor. It took me and one other admin a grand total of a day and a half to sort through our Exchange server and backup tapes and provide the FBI with every email they requested.

Oh, and it didn’t cost us a penny for paper or printer consumables, we delivered the emails on a DVD. Thousand’s of dollars to perform this request? Yeah right, I WISH I made that much money. I wouldn’t have to work any more.

Capitalist Lion Tamersays:

Thus, they’re now suing the college for failing to obey the Kansas Open Records Act, which requires only reasonable fees to retrieve the information requested.

Reasonable fees are in the eye of the beholder (or in this case, the beholden[?]). Just ask the RIAA. It knows all about “reasonable fees” for infringement.

(Maybe the RIAA is the “outside agency” the school is communicating with…)

Re: Re:

Please tell me how you are comparing the punishment for a crime to the cost of a records request.

This is how I’m comparing them: both are exorbitantly high, approaching “unrealistic,” if not completely surpassing it.

x unrealistic fee = x unrealistic fee

I’ll break it down even further: both the school and the RIAA think the word “reasonable” means “an incredibly large amount.”

That’s how I’m doing that.

MrWilsonsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s just semantics to argue over which word you use to refer to the money that each entity wants to receive in each scenario.

The extremely high valuation by the RIAA companies of their products is similar to the extremely high valuation by the college of its IT services. They’re both high and unreasonable.

It doesn’t matter why they think they deserve to receive that much money – the comparison still stands because the absurd valuation is what is being compared.

zoredachesays:

records requests can be pretty expensive

I believe some of you are under the impression that you would simply copy mail off the server and hand it over, but many requests don’t work like that. You may have to do a restore from your backup or archive systems.

The other expensive part for a school, is that you will probably have to pay someone to review every possible record for student names and so on to redact out all the information that cannot be shared legally. It does sound like their prices are a bit steep, but they are not insanely over-board.

Rikuosays:

Re: records requests can be pretty expensive

“believe some of you are under the impression that you would simply copy mail off the server and hand it over, but many requests don’t work like that. You may have to do a restore from your backup or archive systems.”

-So popping in a backup tape costs thousands of dollars now?

“The other expensive part for a school, is that you will probably have to pay someone to review every possible record for student names and so on to redact out all the information that cannot be shared legally. It does sound like their prices are a bit steep, but they are not insanely over-board.”

Reread the article
“just choosing a single day (one day after the one in the previous request) and was told to get just those emails it would cost $9,745.96… even though the total number of emails was around 20.”
How can it cost almost 10 grand just to get at 20 emails? Even if you factor in your redaction costs…that’s still far too steep.

Anonymoussays:

Re: records requests can be pretty expensive

No, they are insanely overboard. They include 16 hours for restoring the backups, 8 hours for each. OK, maybe they have really slow backups… but do they plan for the techs to pop in a tape and then stare at it for all day Monday while it restores, then pop in a tape Tuesday and stare at that one all day? (And then, of course, an hour of staring at the computer writing the records to a CD.) If they’re paying techs $210 per hour, I would hope they would be a little more efficient than that. And then, after the system is restored, 8 hours to search one day’s worth of emails between two people? That’s an all-day job? And that 8 hours DOES NOT INCLUDE the human resources/legal time, those are listed seperately.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop ┬╗

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...
Older Stuff
13:40 It's Great That Winnie The Pooh Is In The Public Domain; But He Should Have Been Free In 1982 (Or Earlier) (35)
12:06 Norton 360 Now Comes With Crypto Mining Capabilities And Sketchy Removal Process (28)
10:45 Chinese Government Dragnet Now Folding In American Social Media Platforms To Silence Dissent (14)
10:40 Daily Deal: The 2022 Ultimate Cybersecurity Analyst Preparation Bundle (0)
09:29 A Fight Between Facebook And The British Medical Journal Highlights The Difficulty Of Moderating 'Medical Misinformation' (9)
06:29 Court Ruling Paves The Way For Better, More Reliable Wi-Fi (4)
20:12 Eighth Circuit (Again) Says There's Nothing Wrong With Detaining Innocent Minors At Gunpoint (15)
15:48 China's Regulatory War On Its Gaming Industry Racks Up 14k Casualties (10)
13:31 Chinese Government Fines Local Car Dealerships For Surveilling While Not Being The Government (5)
12:08 Eric Clapton Pretends To Regret The Decision To Sue Random German Woman Who Listed A Bootleg Of One Of His CDs On Ebay (29)
10:44 ICE Is So Toxic That The DHS's Investigative Wing Is Asking To Be Completely Separated From It (29)
10:39 Daily Deal: The 2022 Complete Raspberry Pi And Arduino Developer Bundle (0)
09:31 Google Blocked An Article About Police From The Intercept... Because The Title Included A Phrase That Was Also A Movie Title (24)
06:22 Wireless Carriers Balk At FAA Demand For 5G Deployment Delays Amid Shaky Safety Concerns (16)
19:53 Tenth Circuit Denies Qualified Immunity To Social Worker Who Fabricated A Mother's Confession Of Child Abuse (35)
15:39 Sci-Hub's Creator Thinks Academic Publishers, Not Her Site, Are The Real Threat To Science, And Says: 'Any Law Against Knowledge Is Fundamentally Unjust' (34)
13:32 Federal Court Tells Proud Boys Defendants That Raiding The Capitol Building Isn't Covered By The First Amendment (25)
12:14 US Courts Realizing They Have A Judge Alan Albright Sized Problem In Waco (17)
10:44 Boston Police Department Used Forfeiture Funds To Hide Purchase Of Surveillance Tech From City Reps (16)
10:39 Daily Deal: The Ultimate Microsoft Excel Training Bundle (0)
09:20 NY Senator Proposes Ridiculously Unconstitutional Social Media Law That Is The Mirror Opposite Of Equally Unconstitutional Laws In Florida & Texas (25)
06:12 Telecom Monopolies Are Exploiting Crappy U.S. Broadband Maps To Block Community Broadband Grant Requests (7)
12:00 Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of 2021 At Techdirt (17)
10:00 Gaming Like It's 1926: Join The Fourth Annual Public Domain Game Jam (6)
09:00 New Year's Message: The Arc Of The Moral Universe Is A Twisty Path (33)
19:39 DHS, ICE Begin Body Camera Pilot Program With Surprisingly Good Policies In Place (7)
15:29 Remembering Techdirt Contributors Sherwin And Elliot (1)
13:32 DC Metro PD's Powerful Review Panel Keeps Giving Bad Cops Their Jobs Back (6)
12:11 Missouri Governor Still Expects Journalists To Be Prosecuted For Showing How His Admin Leaked Teacher Social Security Numbers (39)
10:48 Oversight Board Overturning Instagram Takedown Of Ayahuasca Post Demonstrates The Impossibility Of Content Moderation (10)
More arrow
This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it