Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
The Merit Board, and the State Universities Civil Service System (University System),
shall endeavor to open the workings of government to the public, shed light on government
actions, and in the process hopefully strengthen state government democratic system.
“It is the public policy of this State that public bodies exist to aid in the conduct
of the people’s business and that the people have a right to be informed as to the
conduct of their business.” -
Illinois Open Meetings Act, 5 ILCS 120/1
“Pursuant to the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of government,
it is declared to be the public policy of the State of Illinois that all persons
are 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.” -
Illinois Freedom of Information Act, 5 ILCS 140/1
Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 ILCS 140/1 et seq.), every
public body must make available to any person for inspection, and/or copying, all
public records except for those specifically exempted under the FOIA. The following
are instructions on how to file a FOIA request with the University System:
- Please make your request for records in writing. The FOIA request does not need
to follow any specific format. However, the University System has provided a standardized
form for use for those who wish to use it. You may submit your written request by
mail, fax, e-mail, or personal delivery to our office.
Please direct your request to:
Freedom of Information Officer
State Universities Civil Service System
1717 Philo Road, Suite 24
Urbana, IL 61802-6099
- Please be
as specific as possible
when designating the records you are seeking. Remember, the FOIA is designed to
allow you to inspect or receive copies of the records. It is not designed to require
a public body to answer questions. To the extent you wish to ask questions of a
representative of the University System, you may call our office at 217/278-3150
to be directed to the proper person.
- Please indicate whether you would like copies of the requested records, or whether
you wish to examine the records in person. You have the right to either option.
- There is no fee for up to fifty (50) pages of standard black and white letter or
legal sized copies. The cost of any copies in excess of the first 50 pages will
not exceed 15 cents per page. The fee for color or irregular size copies will not
exceed the actual cost for reproducing the records. The fee for certification will
not exceed $1. All copying of records or converting electronic records to paper
form will be done by an employee of the University System office.
- You are permitted to ask for a waiver of copying fees. To do so, please include
the following statement (or similar statement) in your written FOIA request: "I
request a waiver of all fees associated with this request." In addition, you must
include a specific explanation as to why your request for information is in the
public interest - not simply your personal interest - and merits a fee waiver.
- Please include your name, preferred telephone number(s), mailing address, and, if
you wish, your electronic mail address.
- Written requests for records shall be considered received only upon actual receipt
by the University System office on a working day. The University System will stamp
each written request with the date of receipt. The University System office is open
between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for designated holidays.
University System Response
Pursuant to the FOIA, the University System has five (5) working days from the time
of receipt to respond to a written FOIA request for the inspection and/or copying
of public records of the University System. The University System may respond by:
- Disclosing all or part of the records requested.
- Providing notice of an extension to respond.
- Denying the request in its entirety.
If the University System determines that the FOIA request requires disclosure of
all or any portion of any public record properly requested, the Freedom of Information
Officer will notify the requestor in writing of the determination and will provide
copies of the public records or make available for inspection depending on the request.
If a request is made for a public record that the University System decides is in
part exempt from disclosure in accordance with section 7 of the FOIA (5 ILCS 140/7),
the University System will delete the information that is exempt and make the remaining
information available for inspection and/or copying. The University System shall
notify the requestor in writing of the reasons for the decision to partially deny
disclosure of the requested information, the factual basis and any legal citation.
If the FOIA request is to inspect public records (paper or electronic), the inspection
will take place at the University System office during regular business hours. An
employee of the University System shall be present during the inspection. Anyone
requesting to inspect public records may be prohibited from bringing bags, briefcases,
electronic equipment, or other containers into the inspection room.
Extension of Time
If additional time is needed, the University System may extend the time to respond
to a written FOIA request for an additional five (5) working days. A written notice
of extension of time will be provided to the requestor within five (5) working days
from receipt of the original FOIA request and will provide the reasons for the delay,
and the date by which the response will be provided. The University System may extend
the time in which to respond to a written request for records for one of the following
- The requested records are stored in whole or in part at other locations than the
University System office.
- The request requires a collection of a substantial number of specified records.
- The request is couched in categorical terms and requires an extensive search for
the records in response to the request.
- The requested records have not been located in the course of a routine search and
additional efforts are required to locate them.
- The requested records require examination and evaluation by personnel having the
necessary competence and discretion to determine if they are exempt from disclosure
under section 7 of the FOIA or should be revealed only with the appropriate deletions.
- The request for records cannot be compiled by the University System within the time
limits prescribed by the FOIA without unduly burdening or interfering with the operations
of the University System.
- There is a need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable
speed, with another public body or among two or more components of a public body
having a substantial interest in the determination or in the subject matter of the
request. The University System and the requestor may agree in writing to extend
the time for compliance for a period to be determined by the parties. In the event
of such an agreement, a failure by the University System to comply with any previous
deadlines shall not be treated as a denial of the request for records.
If the University System determines that the requested record is exempt from disclosure,
a written notification of the denial will be provided to the requestor within five
(5) working days of receipt of the original FOIA request indicating the specific
reasons for the denial, including a detailed factual basis and a citation to legal
authority, the names and titles of individuals responsible for the decision and
notice of the requestor's right to appeal to the Public Access Counselor, along
with the address and phone number of the Public Access Counselor. Requested records
may be exempted from disclosure for the following reasons:
- Disclosure of the requested records is prohibited by Federal or State law.
- Private information, unless disclosure is required by another provision of the FOIA,
a state or federal law, or a court order. Private information means unique identifiers,
including a person's social security number, driver's license number, employee identification
number, biometric identifiers, personal financial information, passwords or other
access codes, medical records, home or personal telephone numbers, and personal
email addresses. Private information also includes home address and personal license
plates, except as otherwise provided by law or when compiled without possibility
of attribution to any person.
- Personal information contained within public records, the disclosure of which would
constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Unwarranted invasion
of personal privacy means the disclosure of information that is highly personal
or objectionable to a reasonable person and in which the subject's right of privacy
outweighs any legitimate public interest in obtaining the information. The disclosure
of information that bears on the public duties of public employees and officials
shall not be considered an invasion of personal privacy.
- Disclosure of the requested records could interfere with administrative enforcement
proceedings; deprive a person of a fair or an impartial hearing; unavoidably disclose
the identity of a confidential source, confidential information furnished only by
the confidential source, or persons who file complaints with or provide information
to administrative, investigative, law enforcement, or penal agencies; disclose unique
or specialized investigative techniques and the disclosure would result in demonstrable
harm to the agency or public body that is the recipient of the request; endanger
the life of law enforcement personnel or any other person; or obstruct an ongoing
criminal investigation by the agency that is the recipient of the request.
- The requested information contains preliminary drafts, notes, recommendations, memoranda
and other records in which opinions are expressed, or policies or actions are formulated.
- The requested records contain trade secrets, or proprietary, privileged, or confidential
commercial of financial information.
- The requested records contain proposals and bids for any contract, grant or agreement,
including information which if it were disclosed would frustrate procurement or
give an advantage to any person proposing to enter into an agreement with the University
System, until an award or final selection is made.
- The requested records contain valuable formulae, computer graphic systems, and research
data obtained or produced by the University System when disclosure could reasonably
be expected to produce private gain or public loss.
- The requested information contains test questions, scoring keys or other examination
data used to administer an academic examination.
- The requested records contain architect or engineer plans submitted for projects
constructed or developed with public funds to the extent that disclosure would compromise
- The requested records contain minutes of closed meetings as provided under the Open
- The requested records contain communications between the University System and an
attorney or auditor that are not subject to discovery in litigation.
- The requested records were prepared or compiled at the request of an attorney advising
the University System in anticipation of a criminal, civil or administrative proceeding.
- The requested material was prepared or compiled with respect to an internal audit
of the University System.
- Disclosure of the requested records would jeopardize the security of automated data
processing operations, including but not limited to software, operating protocols,
computer program abstracts, file layouts, source listings, object modules, user
guides, documentation pertaining to all logical and physical design of computerized
systems, employee manuals, and any other information.
- The requested records relate to employee collective bargaining matters and do not
constitute a final collective bargaining agreement.
- The requested records contain information about financing and marketing transactions
of the University System.
- The requested records contain employee grievance or disciplinary information; however
this exemption does not extend to the final outcome of cases in which discipline
- The requested records relate solely to the University System's internal personnel
rules and practices.
- The requested records concerns enforcement proceeding under the State Officials
and Employees Ethics Act.
- The requested records are information that would disclose or might lead to the disclosure
of secret or confidential information, codes, algorithms, programs, or private keys
intended to be used to create electronic or digital signatures.
The University System may also deny written FOIA requests for all records that fall
within a category when production would unduly burden the University System and
that burden would outweigh the public interest in production of requested records.
In that event, the University System will notify the requestor of that determination
in writing, indicate the reasons supporting the determination, and the right of
the requestor to meet with the University System in an effort to narrow the request.
Generally, the University System is not required to create records it does not already
maintain in record form in order to comply with a FOIA request for information.
If the University System fails to respond to a properly submitted written FOIA request
for information, the request will be deemed to be denied as of the date of the expiration
of the five (5) working day period in which the University System had to respond
to a written FOIA request for records.
If a member of the public believes that the University System has improperly denied
his or her FOIA request, then the member of the public may submit a Request for
Review to the Public Access Counselor (PAC) established in the Office of the Illinois
Attorney General. The Request for Review is a formal way of asking the PAC to take
a look at the original FOIA request, as well as the University System response,
and determine if a FOIA violation has occurred.
The Request for Review under the FOIA by the PAC must be made in writing, be signed
by the requester, and include a summary of the facts supporting the allegation.
The Request for Review under the FOIA must also include a copy of the original FOIA
request sent to the University System, and any responses provided by the University
A Request for Review must be submitted to the PAC within 60 calendar days after
the denial of the FOIA request. A Request for Review may be submitted to the PAC
by either electronic mail (email or fax) or U.S. mail to the following address:
Public Access Counselor
Office of the Attorney General
500 S. 2nd Street
Springfield, Illinois 62706
The Request for Review does not need to follow any particular format. However, sample
FOIA Request for Review forms are available on the Attorney General’s website for
those who would like to use them. These can be found at foiapac.ilag.gov.
Index of Public Records Maintained by the State Universities Civil Service System
The University System will furnish upon request a current index of all records prepared
and received, and maintained by the University System and a description of the manner
in which public records stored electronically may be obtained.
FOIA Request Form