FOIA — Free Information on Anything?

Just how much information can someone obtain using a Freedom of Information Act Request?

Jona Padua, Staff Writer

Let’s say you get penalized based on a very vague set of rules. Wouldn’t you want more extensive information on the records behind why you were penalized? Well that is one of the ways the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is used. At the College of DuPage, you can submit a FOIA request online to be able to inspect public records to their fullest extent. So this makes me question, what information does College of DuPage have to distribute to those who send a request, and exactly what information can you obtain?

FOIA stands for the Freedom of Information Act. It is an act that allows people to gain full disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents.

“All persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts and policies of those who represent it,” reads the FOIA page on the COD website. However, this is quite vague. When it describes “those who represent it,” does that mean there is full information about those people? Is this borderline an infringement of their privacy? How often does COD give out things like your address, phone numbers and email addresses if they do at all?

Well, in an attempt to find some answers, I saw that COD has a request log available for anyone to view on the FOIA webpage. Some of the most recent requests being copies of police reports, fees paid to current actuary and school policy regarding teacher access to students’ personal information. So does that mean just anyone can access these reports? Actually, yes; anyone is able to request these records as long as they do not fall under the nine FOIA exemptions. So, there is a limit as to what information someone can obtain.

Some of the main exemptions would be national security information, information prohibited by another law or information that would invade another individual’s personal privacy. The full list of exemptions can be found at However, anything else that does not fall under those nine exemptions can be requested and someone can gain as much information there can be provided about that certain subject. So that also raises some questions. Can just anyone FOIA for information like the classes you take or the grades you get? Is FOIA the reason why we receive so many spam emails? What counts as “invasion of privacy?”

As COD has this accessibility, it goes to show the college also stores numerous amounts of information about a variety of different things someone may want more details on. So then, what information can a marketing company, military recruiter, member of the public or even stalker get about you by sending a FOIA to COD? Is COD under any obligation to notify you if/when they give someone any form of your information through a request like this? 

The person who could potentially answer these questions would be Leslie Hollowed who is the FOIA Officer at COD. After getting in contact with her, she explained, “At the College, the FOIA Officer position is a part of the Office of the General Counsel. All FOIA responses are prepared in consultation with legal counsel.”

She provided a number of resources to look into regarding FOIA, like the 142 requests that she has received last year in the 2021 Requests log, the Illinois Attorney General’s website, and the FOIA Act in its entirety. However, there was no specific answers to the questions that arose, and although I could do some in depth document searching, I don’t believe it’ll be much benefit COD specific questions.

Will we ever know?