The Price of Free Information

Hawaii

In response to the ever-escalating cost of college, many have suggested that colleges are spending too much, and that the best way to keep college affordable is to keep costs down. Eliminate programs the college runs, stop constructing new buildings, and eliminate some unnecessary staff.

Well one professor is trying. According to an article by Rob Perez in the The Star-Advertiser:

Wanting to examine the University of Hawaii’s spending on private law firms, accounting professor John Wendell asked to see three years of legal invoices.

UH  initially denied the professor’s 2010 request, but subsequently changed its position after the state Office of Information Practices, the agency that oversees Hawaii’s open records law, issued an advisory opinion saying the invoices must be released. The agency said, however, that confidential attorney-client information may be blacked out.

The university said that Wendell would be able to see the legal bills. It would, however, cost him $40,000. That was the price of the request because “would take about 2,000 hours to find the documents, review them and redact the confidential information from thousands of pages.”

This high price, however, virtually assures that no one will ever be able to critically examine how much the university spends on its lawyers, despite the fact that the university in question both employs Wendell and is supported by the state.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer