Category Archives: UIUC-No-Procedures

What Barbara Wilson Knew

When Barbara Wilson was appointed interim Chancellor of UIUC there were circling questions of what involvement she’d had in the Salaita Affair, if any.  No particular documents were forthcoming from UIUC, although (as I recall and am in the process of tracing down) various FOIAed documents showed she was copied on back-and-forth between then-Chancellor Wise and University Counsel Scott Rice and others that was presumably legal strategizing about Salaita, since everything in those emails but the recipients had been blacked out as, presumably, privileged Lawyer-client communications.

9 months ago I filed FOIA with UIUC to get Wilson’s sent emails during Salaita week (July 21 – 25, 2014) and for the next week or so thereafter.  Now, after a 9 month delay I’ve gotten the first tranche of emails, from July 21 to July 23.  And sure enough, there’s direct evidence Wilson knew about Salaita from day 0 (July 21), evidence that was never released in any of the preceding 20-odd FOIAs on Salaita:

15-478_OCR_WILSON2-1

15-478_OCR_WILSON1-1

Here are the .pdfs of the excerpts from that FOIA with the full set of those Salaita-relevant emails: 15-478_OCR_WILSON1 and 15-478_OCR_WILSON2 … note that I have to go back through the several thousand pages of previous disclosures (including the ones Wise and cronies sent on personal accounts with the specific intent of avoiding FOIA, according to Wise as per Robin Kaler’s advice) to reconstruct as much of the Wilson story as those FOIAed documents allow.

Where does this leave us?  Two possibilities: 1) we can be over-the-top angry that Wilson was heavily involved and that no one ever thought it would be important to let that out to the public as part of the process of “restoring trust” in UIUC administration by making Wilson interim Chancellor.  Alternately, we can 2) say we don’t know at this point that Wilson did anything terrible, but that the fact she was much more involved than broadcast is detestable when coupled with the fact that apparently UIUC hid emails from Wilson for 9 months.

Since I believe in “civility” I’ll pick #2, and express outrage not at what Wilson may or may not have done (which we don’t yet know) but at the fact that the public has once again been snookered by UIUC, which yet again has hidden emails that should have been disclosed long ago.

***

On that note, here’s another revelation: apparently last fall UIUC produced the 8,000-10,000 pages of emails that Salaita had sought under FOIA and that required intervention by the Illinois courts to force UIUC to produce.  As you’ll recall, in the suit brought by Salaita UIUC’s lawyers claimed there was no real public interest in Salaita, and that it was just rubbernecking akin to interest in Kim Kardashian.  While the “Kim Kardashian defense” hasn’t made it into the annals of legal history along with the twinkie defense, it stands out as tin-eared lawyering, the tune being sung to the sum of (as I recall) $100,000 in lawyers fees for that brilliant losing argument.

I’ve been waiting to see those documents for the 8 or 9 months since UIUC lost in court; it turns out they were indeed produced last fall, but only to Salaita’s lawyers, and not to the general public.  There was no legal obligation for UIUC to provide that information to the taxpayers that underwrite UIUC, but still, you’d have thought that after being blown out of the water on the stupid argument that the public didn’t care about Salaita, UIUC would have concluded that the documents should have been released publicly regardless of what UIUC could get away with in terms of sitting on them.

I’ve now filed FOIA to obtain those 8,000-10,000 pages of documents.  I fully expect UIUC to delay production to me by months if not years; even if I’m pleasantly surprised in that regard, I also expect that virtually everything will be blacked out.

We’ll see.  The point is that UIUC was never forthcoming about the Salaita Affair, and now after spending about $2M on the settlement and lawyers fees, continues to hide information that it was legally obligated to provide.

So much for “shared governance.”

 

strange_bedfellows

Strange bedfellows: UIUC and compliance procedures (of any sort).

I don’t think of myself as being very organized, my “procedures” for living my life consist mostly of placing my glasses and car keys and wallet in more-or-less the same spot in hopes of being able to find at least two of the three in the morning.1

 

1. Felony penalties for a university destroying/not keeping records.

On the other hand, Illinois public universities have exacting record-keeping duties.  That obviously includes such minor things as the Illinois Records Act, which imposes a felony penalty on someone who “alters, destroys, defaces, removes or conceals” a public record:2

 illinois_state_records_act_felony

 

2. Lots and lots of resources to help a little ‘ole university learn itself what has to be kept.

Of course, you might wonder what constitutes a “record” … but not to worry, there are actual flow-charts to help answer this question, at least if you’re a UIUC employee (from UIUC_Records_FlowChart):

 

UIUC_WhatIsARecord_Flowchart

 

I should add that — if the above isn’t clear enough — there’s also an entire webpage from the UI system’s Chief Information Officer (“CIO”) that provides still more detail about records, and record keeping, and how-tos and whys — see UI CIO.

 

3. UIUC actually has a procedure that mandates procedures.

As a result of such trivialities as the felony penalty laid out in the Illinois Records Act, UIUC has instituted on the internet a set of procedures for record-keeping, and a whole bunch of what appears to be requirements that actually should be followed by UIUC personnel:3

 

UIUC_RecordsDisposal

 

So UIUC itself informs itself that it (itself) ought have those things called “policies,” including specifically record retention/disposal policies.  And those should be done for each and every unit of UIUC.

 

4. And yet the Chancellor of UIUC apparently is procedure-free.

So given the above, you’d have thought that the Chancellor of UIUC would be equally as bound as anyone else there to have delineated procedures for record keeping and destruction.

Well, you’d be wrong.  So here’s a bit of a ruling by the Illinois Attorney General’s office (specifically the “Public Access Counselor” or “PAC”) on a FOIA filed by a samizdat-startups viewer and contributed to the site by that viewer:

 

2015_PAC_33010

 

Now maybe it’s unfair of me to conclude from the above that Chancellor Wise has no procedures at all — what the above seems to say is that there’s no record-keeping procedure specific to third-party records.

But this strikes me as ludicrous — lawyerly issue-ducking.  When the Chancellor (or anyone else at UIUC) gets a third-party document (like the “two-pager” that the Chancellor “can’t find”), what is the procedure for retaining or discarding it?

In other words, the document comes in the door or attached to an email — according to the law and UIUC procedures that document is supposed to be reviewed for possible compliance.

Is it?  UIUC doesn’t know, or won’t say.

I guess the next FOIA to them needs to ask something like “what procedure do you follow in processing a third-party document for possible retention as a “record” as defined in the Illinois Records Act and UIUC policies?”

Someone interested in asking this question?  I intend to ask it, would be great if others join in.

 


The marquee image is, of course, a Gustav Dore, I’ll be darned if I can find it in the “Mother Goose” at project Gutenberg, but it’s easily available if you do a search for Dore images.


 

 

  1. I try to do the same thing with my car when I go to a mall or grocery shopping, but something about either my age or my car makes it a certainty that, when I come out to find it, it’s absolutely not in the spot where I’m sure I left it. []
  2. Note that the Illinois Records Act applies to more than merely Illinois universities. []
  3. See UIUC Records Disposal []
uiuc_foia_listen

UIUC-FOIA: still a rogue office, still engaging in illegal behavior.

The UIUC-FOIA office continues to bother the DDoS-FOIA contributors, apparently still in blissful ignore of the binding PAC opinion 12-001.

Well what can you expect, they don’t have any written procedures, they don’t have a timestamp, they’re a veritable Sergeant Shultz of FOIA offices: “I know nothing! I see nothing! I hear nothing!”1

I imagine in time they’ll be forcibly disabused of their misapplication of the law, courtesy of appeals I think some of the DDoS-FOIA contributors will likely file.

But whether or not that happens, if anyone likes the idea of experimentation, how about if someone(s) out there file FOIA on some/any of the stuff I’ve talked about in prior blogs and say they’re explicitly doing it in conjunction with samizdat-startups.org, which qualifies for the news-media frequent-requester exemption.  And in a few days for the non-profit exemption too.

Let’s see how silly the UIUC-FOIA response is.  They seem not to be capable of listening to anything they say … or maybe they only listen to what they think they’re saying, a sort of hermetic go-round that has the real appeal of keeping reality (and the law) firmly at bay.

 


I’m embarrassed to say I can’t figure out which of my many bookmarked public domain image sites the marquee image came from.  My most heartfelt apologies to my readers, and to the happy old gent hearing his heart.


 

 

  1. You’re probably too young to know the reference.  See John Banner. []
uiuc_foia_service

UIUC-FOIA continues to engage in illegal behavior towards the public. “Clower-power” strikes again.

I woke this morning to a frantic email from someone who’s contributed some information as a self-appointed member of my DDoS-FOIA Marvels (and people of other appellations).

 

1. My secret group.  Sooooo secret even I don’t know about it.

In her/his email this person said that UIUC-FOIA had sent a long legalese-filled document telling this person that he/she was a “recurrent-requester” because she/he was somehow in my secret “group” because he/she:

  1. saw my site;
  2. saw my appeal to people to file FOIAs; and,
  3. filed FOIA.

Apparently UIUC-FOIA went on to tell this person that, since she/he was in my secret group, he/she would be subjected to the same endless delay tactics that UIUC-FOIA applies to me.

UIUC-FOIA also informed this contributor that not only was she/he going to be put in this category, so too were all the other people UIUC-FOIA had taken it upon itself to label as members of my group.  I’m not sure how they decided who was in and who was out — as I’ve said, I would myself never join a group that would have me as a member.

But we can no doubt trust UIUC-FOIA to know such things; maybe they put the money they save by not buying a timestamp into such detective work.  Not that they can search a computer system of course …

 

2. What UIUC-FOIA’s done isn’t remotely amusing or acceptable.

I’d like to say I find this funny, just another example of UIUC-FOIAs audience-pleasing hyjinks, you know like not being able to find documents they’re by law supposed to preserve, or rejecting any and all FOIAs as “unduly burdensome,” etc. etc. etc.1 What the Illinois Attorney General’s office has explicitly labelled “illegal behavior.”

But this isn’t funny, because my DDoS-FOIA connection who wrote was truly terrified about what UIUC-FOIA had sent.  I’ve not seen the specific document, but this person seems to have taken it as a personal threat.  Or at the very least an attempt to pierce the anonymity that’s a fundamental right of Illinois FOIA law.

So it’s hard not to think that what UIUC-FOIA is trying to accomplish is to find yet another way to act squarely against the explicit intent of the Illinois FOIA law — that intent of course being to provide a framework for citizens to have straightforward access to public information.

 

3. What UIUC-FOIA’s done is also patently illegal — see the Illinois Attorney General’s binding opinion PAC 12-001 (1/9/12).

Now I suppose you could argue that what UIUC-FOIA’s done is a result of there being unsettled aspects of FOIA law that they’re using to support their actions.

Yeah, well.  Here’s a bit of text from a binding opinion issued on January 9, 2012, by the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor (“PAC”):2

 

12-001-6

 

As you see, even when 1) a married couple 2)  living in the same house filed FOIA requests in 3) the same envelope, the AG’s office definitively stated that the requests could NOT be aggregated.

And that was in 2012.  You’d have thought that, after being good law for 3 years,3 the UIUC-FOIA office might just possibly have been aware of this case, and therefore would not have made what certainly appears to be an illegal and harassing attempt to badger FOIA filers.

 

4. Meet Laura Clower and what appears to be a full-blown case of “Clower-power.”

Now obviously I can’t speak for the UIUC-FOIA office, for their reading abilities or the regularity of their consumption of the written word.  And I would never think to make a claim to such knowledge!

But. I do know that the actions that my DDoS-FOIA person’s reported seem to uncannily parallel experiences I’ve had previously with the UIUC-FOIA office in the form of Ms. Laura Clower.

Ms. Clower is Senior Associate University Counsel at UIUC.4  She’s a former litigator, and, in action, displays what seems to me to be the incredibly bombastic behavior that most if not all litigators exhibit.

In litigation this isn’t a bad thing — hyperbolic claims punctuated by unpleasant prose drives people to settle, and settlement is a lot cheaper and more efficient than years in court.  I never wanted to be a litigator because of these seeming requirements for the job, but I respect those who litigate, Laura Clower among them.

The problem is that it seems to me that Ms. Clower is exhibiting this same standard behavior in her UIUC position in association with the FOIA office.  And FOIA disclosures aren’t supposed to be adversarial — the goal of a FOIA office is (presumably) to do their best to disclose information, not to prevent its disclosure.

From my experiences with Ms. Clower — and there are many of them — I think she’s conscientious and hard-working … and still very much in the mindset that information wants to be imprisoned behind high walls rather than free.

 

5. Advice to DDoS-FOIA filers, wherever you are.

I’ll have much more to say about Ms. Clower in later posts.  For now let’s say that UIUC-FOIA’s latest action may well be attributable to her, but that the real focus needs to be on the appropriate response, not who’s behind things.

For all you present DDoS-FOIA contributors or non-contributors, I’d suggest you write back to UIUC-FOIA if they send you an email like the one my correspondent described.  I’d suggest you write back and point out the facts of PAC 12-001.

I’d suggest you point out in no uncertain terms that we certainly can’t be co-conspirators if a married couple living together and mailing FOIAs in a single envelope aren’t co-conspirators.

You might want to rant and rave about how what UIUC-FOIA’s doing is to try to suppress FOIA filings and scare FOIA filers.  You might remind them that the AG’s office has already labeled their actions “illegal.”

You can do all of these things.  Or none of them.  We’re not a group, we’re not an organization.  You’re all individuals, as am I.

Sort of the anti-Alice’s Restaurant Massacree Movement.  If you know the reference …

 


The marquee image is “Martyrs suspended by one or both feet, by the arms with heavy weights attached to the feet; crucified; Christian women hung up by the hair,” and is available at Christian Martyrs.

I note I have mixed feelings about using this image.  Obviously I’m being inflammatory; that said, I don’t think there’s anything funny about torture.  Not new torture, not torture that occurred 2,000 years ago.

I guess I also don’t find anything funny about persecuting people for their beliefs or for asking questions.  Which is why this image seemed so apt for this post.


 

 

  1. Awwww, aren’t they just the cutest? … []
  2. Available at http://foia.ilattorneygeneral.net/pdf/opinions/2012/12-001.pdf. []
  3. Note I don’t see any evidence this ruling’s been overturned. []
  4. See UIUC — Laura Clower. []
support_uiuc_foia

We can do it! We can buy UIUC-FOIA a date- and time-stamp!

1. Alsip’s Date- and Time-stamp.

Alsip Illinois is a village of about 20,000 souls out in Chicagoland. They’re the location of the Griffith Laboratories headquarters, and they have a Coke bottling plant.1

They also have a FOIA office.  That FOIA office has a date and time stamp that they routinely use to date and timestamp FOIAs they receive.  It looks like this:

alsip_datetimestamp

If you’d like to see another 89 examples of this timestamp, you can look at those 89 examples in my earlier post on the topic (What constitutes REAL vexatiousness).  Note that all those 90 documents were all stamped on the same day (September 7, 2010) by the same very nice lady in the Alsip FOIA office.  Wow, I wonder if her hand hurt?

 

2. UIUC-FOIA’s Date- and Time-stamp.

UIUC is located in the Urbana/Champaign area.  It’s a major research university.  It gets more NSF funding than any other university in the country.  It’s known for its engineering programs.  It’s particularly well-known for its computer science prowess.

The Freedom-of-Information-Act (“FOIA”) office at UIUC also has a date- and time-stamp.  It looks like this:

uiuc_dateandtimestamp

 

I know this because I filed an appeal against UIUC-FOIA on October 24 with the Illinois Attorney General’s office (the “PAC”), and the PAC mailed that on to UIUC-FOIA on the 14th of November.

UIUC claims it didn’t get that letter from the PAC for 10 full days, that is, not till the 24th. So I filed FOIA with UIUC-FOIA to obtain evidence to support their claim that the document didn’t get processed in at their office until the 24th.2  The letter you see in the marquee is the letter from the PAC that UIUC-FOIA received,  As you’ll note, the timestamp is hand-written, and is signed by … well looks like someone who was a physician at some point (i.e., it’s illegible).

 

2. We can do it — a Kickstarter campaign to buy UIUC-FOIA a Date- and Time-stamp.

Now I know it’s not fair to expect UIUC-FOIA to have the same resources as Alsip.  After all, UIUC is only a major research university with a world-class program in computer science and engineering.  Whereas Alsip is a village of a whole 20,000 people!

But my heart goes out to that poor …. well I can’t read his/her signature … but he/she must have carpal tunnel what with all those FOIA filings and appeals she/he has to hand date and timestamp.

So I call on my readers to help me set up a kickstarter campaign to raise money to buy poor resource-limited UIUC-FOIA a timestamp.

And not just any timestamp.  Let’s not subject them to the Dodge Dart quality timestamps!  Let’s get them a Cadillac-class one, like this:

amazon-timestamp

Yes, it’s a lot ($30.00 from Amazon (Amazon Timestamp)).  But I’m sure that together, with a lot of effort and can-do-idness we can raise that kind of money.

And really, the sky’s-the-limit.  Why maybe we can purchase them some written procedures too, or even … even get them an IMSAI 8080 so that they can actually search their email system! (See UIUC FOIA — No Procedures, No Search Capability.)

  1. See Wikipedia — Alsip Illinois. []
  2. The whole file is here: 14-813.Documents.Final []