Wow. A Federal Judge Finds Limits to FERPA!

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

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A federal judge has concluded that a federal privacy act does not bar the University of Illinois from releasing information about hundreds of college applicants who appeared on an internal list of well-connected students, the basis for the Chicago Tribune’s 2009 “Clout Goes to College” investigation.

U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall said the U. of I. is mistaken in citing the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 to deny the Tribune’s request for certain information for the series of articles examining a formalized admissions system that allowed subpar but politically connected applicants to get into the university over more qualified candidates.

Monday’s ruling notes that the opinion “is a narrow one,” affecting only the U. of I.’s contention that the act prohibited the information’s release. In its repeated denials of this and other Freedom of Information Act requests, the university also has cited the act’s privacy exemption.

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