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Illinois Papers Try to Shame FOIA Violators with 'Worsty' Awards

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Illinois Papers Try to Shame FOIA Violators with 'Worsty' Awards

Article excerpt

No controversy at the University of Illinois split students, faculty, alumni, and activists of all strips like the decision earlier this year to ban Chief Illiniwek, a cherished symbol to many and a mascot that perpetuated stereotypes to others.

But the way the decision was made puts the university's board of trustees and its chairman at the top of the Illinois Press Association's (IPA) list of the state's worst Open Meetings Act (OPA) violators. Each year, the IPA awards 10 "Worstys," a kind of Hall of Shame for entities its member newspapers say violate the letter or spirit of the OPA and the state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Rather than make the decision in an open meeting of the public body, the chairman, Lawrence Eppley, apparently talked to members individually, and determined to abolish the Illiniwek decision unilaterally. The chairman told The News-Gazette in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., that he was simply carrying out a mandate from the NCAA, which had declared Illiniwek contributed to a "hostile" environment, and had threatened to bar Illinois from bowl games and tournaments. …

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