Illinois Freedom of Information Act

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is meant as a general guide for:

(This is not a thorough treatment of the Act. For more information, refer to the Illinois Attorney General’s FOIA website.)

Frequently Asked Questions by Requestors

1.  What is the Illinois Freedom of Information Act?
The Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides public access to government documents and records. As a state institution, the University of Illinois is subject to the
Illinois FOIA.

2.  How can a FOIA request be submitted to the University of Illinois?
The University of Illinois has three campuses (Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield), two satellite campuses (Peoria and Rockford), numerous Extension offices, and the administrative unit that works with the campuses (called University Administration or UA). All FOIA requests are filed with University Relations. To submit a FOIA request,
follow the instructions.

3.  Is there a charge to view or receive public records?
You may view responsive documents by appointment at no charge.

Documents may also be delivered by email at no charge.

4.  What types of records are available to the public?
Under FOIA, "[a]ll records in the custody or possession of a public body are presumed to be open to inspection or copying." The Act does, however, recognize that in order to enable public bodies to perform certain governmental functions properly and to protect personal privacy, some records and information need to be kept confidential.

The Office for University Relations lists information that is available online for immediate production.

5.  What types of records are exempt from public inspection?
Public records that are exempt from inspection and copying include: information specifically prohibited from disclosure by federal and state law; personal information about students and employees; minutes of meetings closed to the public; and much more.

A complete listing of exemptions is in Section 7 of the Act (look for "5 ILCS 140/7").

6.  When will requested records be available?
The FOIA officer will contact you within five business days of the request being received in the appropriate office. At that time, access to the documents may be granted, denied, or an extension of the deadline may be invoked. This extension grants the FOIA officer an additional five business days to collect and review documents.

If the request is for commercial purposes, the FOIA office has 21 business days to respond.

7.  What happens when a request is denied?
The FOIA officer will notify you within five working days or within the extended deadline. The notification will be in the form of an email (or a mailed letter if no email addressthat explains the reasons for the denial.

8.  Can denials be appealed?
Appeals of a University decision to redact information from, or deny access to, public records must be submitted to the Office of the Public Access Counselor in the Office of the Attorney General not later than 60 days after the date of the final denial. The request for review must be in writing, signed by the requester, and include (i) a copy of the request for access to records and (ii) any responses from the public body.

The Public Access Counselor may be reached at:

Public Access Bureau
500 S. 2nd Street
Springfield, Illinois 62706
217-558-0486
publicaccess@atg.state.il.us

 

Frequently Asked Questions from University Staff

 

9.  What should my office do when it receives a FOIA request?
Forward (fax or email) a copy of the request to University Relations immediately.

University Relations, Attn: Kathy McCarthy
506 S. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801
Email: foia@uillinois.edu
Fax: 217-333-6400

At the same time, determine if your office has any documents that are responsive to the request that you received. A FOIA coordinator will contact you to discuss the request and any documents you might have found.

10.  How long do we have to respond to a FOIA request?
Within five business days from receipt of a request by University Relations, a response must be issued either granting access to the documents, denying the request, or issuing an extension of an additional five business days. This extension is allowed, for due cause, within the Act. (Commercial requests have a different timeline.)

To assist the responding FOIA office, please provide all potentially responsive documents as soon as possible and before the end of the first five days. The FOIA office will alert you to the specific due dates for each request.

11.  What should I do with information and documents that respond to the request?
Please provide documents electronically if possible. When hard copies exist, provide as single-sided pages with no staples. Provide unaltered original documents.

To assist University Relations, provide all potentially responsive documents as soon as possible. The FOIA office will alert you to the specific due dates for each request. You will be asked to provide documents in advance of the first deadline to allow the FOIA office time to consult with your office and legal counsel to determine what, if any, information is prohibited from disclosure.

12.  What if I have information that should not be released?
The FOIA office will consult with your office and legal counsel to determine what, if any, information is prohibited from disclosure. Please share your specific concerns with the FOIA coordinator who is handling the response.

The University of Illinois is a public institution and there is a presumption that public records are open to public viewing.

13.  What if I cannot find a document that responds to the request?
Notify the FOIA coordinator that you have searched and determined that the requested documents do not exist or cannot be located.

Please contact University Relations if you have any questions.