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July 17, 2015

Opinion: Sunshine Laws Should Cover University Foundations

The Columbia Journalism Review examines freedom-of-information controversies involving public universities' foundations, which often maintain that they are distinct nonprofit entities exempt from states' open-records laws.

Much of the article details a fight between the College of DuPage Foundation and Chicago-area newspapers investigating foundation-financed spending by the institution's president.

The magazine's Jonathan W. Peters and Jackie Spinner argue that the foundations, which primarily raise money for scholarships and capital projects at affiliated colleges, are performing "public functions" once handled by the universities themselves and should thus be subject to similar scrutiny. They note that while several state legislatures have extended disclosure regulations to campus foundations, many states have "embraced that fiction" that the groups are not public bodies and shielded them from sunshine laws.