FOIA information is fair game

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

As students and journalists, knowing the ins and outs of what goes on at our University is important. Whether that means knowing where our money is going, what is happening with regards to administration, or who is coming to campus, we like to know it all. Requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act helps us do that. The act allows us to legally obtain this information and doing so allows us to gain better insight about happenings on our campus. The information and transparency of FOIA content is open to everyone.

Earlier this month, The Oklahoma Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Oklahoma, published a copy of the contract between musician Jack White and the university. This contract revealed that the University of Oklahoma spent $80,000 to get White to perform on campus.

The contract also listed very specific requests from White, who demanded that the University of Oklahoma not allow a single banana in his sight. Homemade guacamole, in contrast, had to be in the band’s dressing room, and the contract even included a recipe.

While it did not contain any ground-breaking revelations or university information, the contract included an overwhelming amount of information about White’s food preferences; having this information also allowed students to have some perspective about the money that goes into bringing famous people to campus and the type of accommodations requested by campus visitors.

White got upset about this request and the publication of his contract information. Because of it, he said he would never again play at the University of Oklahoma. However, White later wrote a letter about the incident and said he would be open to play at the university again in the future.

We support The Oklahoma Daily. The newspaper did nothing wrong. In fact, it performed a public service. As students and taxpayers, we deserve to know what our tuition money and tax dollars are spent on — whether it’s a professor’s salary or how much money a musician is bringing in.

While musicians like White may get upset about their contracts being published, their interests do not outweigh the interest of those paying for it. A media organization has an obligation to the public, not to public figures like White.

White may never go to the University of Oklahoma again, but if he comes to the University of Illinois, he can expect the exact same treatment, the same skepticism and the same watchdogging of public money. We hope that other student newspapers don’t back away from their duty to the public in the face of pressure from powerful individuals.