News Story

Freely Available Information Hidden in MSU's Reply to Freedom of Information Request

When Michigan State University sent a Freedom of Information Act response that was full of redactions, it claimed it was withholding information due to federal laws and university policies related to the ongoing plagiarism investigation of a professor. But the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has learned that one of the numerous redactions was the Midland think tank’s own news article about the plagiarism, raising questions about how the school responds to Freedom of Information Act requests.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy made a FOIA request for some documents related to a  plagiarism investigation involving Sharif Shakrani, senior scholar at the Education Policy Center at MSU and a professor of measurement and quantitative methods. In August, the Mackinac Center alleged that Shakrani plagiarized more than 800 words in a study titled “School District Consolidation Study in 10 Michigan Counties.”

One of the e-mails partially redacted was from Carrollton Public Schools Superintendent Craig Douglas. He forwarded his MSU e-mails to the Mackinac Center so that the originals could be compared to the MSU FOIA response relating to his correspondence with the university.

Douglas cut-and-pasted a Michigan Capitol Confidential article in the body of one email that he sent to MSU. The school redacted the entire article from Douglas' email when it released its FOIA response to the Mackinac Center.

“The claim that redacting a publicly available news story is based on some sort of FOIA privacy exemption is ridiculous,” said Patrick Wright, senior legal analyst at the Mackinac Center.  “It makes one wonder what other liberties they [MSU] are taking with the law.”

Radhika Pasricha, MSU’s FOIA officer, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment about why a news article would be redacted.

To see the original MSU-redacted sample, click here.

To see the same email, un-redacted, click here.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.