FOIA and media requests have 'increased dramatically' at MSU
In wake of the news surrounding MSU's handling of ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar's sexual abuse case, the university's Freedom of Information Act Office has received an increase in FOIA requests and MSU's Communications and Brand Strategy, or CABS, is still experiencing a high volume in media inquiries.
The Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, allows interested individuals to receive access to documents from public institutions.
The past three years have seen an influx of news surrounding the university's handling of the Nassar sexual abuse scandal. FOIA requests to MSU have "increased dramatically," according to MSU Spokesperson Emily Guerrant.
"In fact requests nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017 and, based on the number of requests already received, we anticipate 2018 to be higher still," Guerrant said via email. "We recognize that sometimes our timelines for processing requests are not ideal, but we are doing the best we can with our available resources."
Guerrant said FOIA processing in the MSU FOIA Office is currently done by three full-time employees and one part-time employee.
In order to effectively handle the increased demand for FOIA requests, Guerrant said two positions were recently posted to increase the full-time staff.
"During the spring semester we hired three law students (to) assist with documents review working part-time," she said. "Also MSU recently retained the services of an outside law firm (Foster Swift) for document review."
In light of the Nassar crisis, former President Lou Anna K. Simon’s resignation, protests from the MSU community and other occurrences on campus, MSU’s Communications and Brand Strategy office, or CABS, has also received an increase media requests.
As MSU's central communications team, CABS is responsible for handling requests from media outlets and other members of the MSU community who seek information about a particular subject involving the university.
Guerrant said CABS is still receiving a high volume of media requests into the summer semester.
Prior to the higher volume of requests, there was one full-time employee and a portion of another employee's time dedicated to handling daily media requests and crisis responses, Guerrant said. An additional employee was added in December 2017.
"We have had some turnover and people changing roles over the last few months," she said. "I came on board in March and we have been evaluating what structure is needed to deal with the high volume, but also will make the most sense for the University for all strategic communications moving forward."