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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Caden Sierra
Caden Sierra
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Hey. My name is Caden and I'm from the Chicagoland area.  I'm currently going into my 3rd year at NMU.  I'm a multimedia production major with a double minor in journalism and criminal justice. For as...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Pizza Cat Vol. 10
Pizza Cat Vol. 10
Deirdre Northrup-RiestererApril 23, 2024

North Wind seeks missing documents

Administration provided requested emails with redactions

NMU began providing public documents requested by The North Wind on Saturday, Jan. 24, though the university admitted some documents were not provided and others were redacted. The university allowed each of the seven administrators’ whose emails were requested through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to search through their own emails and provide them to the administration.

re-FOIA

The university did not say how deleted emails were obtained. The North Wind FOIA requested all emails, including those that had been deleted but could be obtained from an archived server.

“Each individual named in the FOIA, assisted by office staff, reviewed and compiled their respective emails,” said Vice President of Identity, Brand and Marketing Derek Hall.

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Additionally, he said, Technology Services is doing another search through the servers to ensure the correct key word was used for The North Wind.

On Monday, Jan. 26,  the Detroit News also requested the same documents but the reporter was told by the university that he had to formally request them using the state FOIA.

In early December, the student newspaper requested seven administrator emails in which The North Wind, its editors or adviser were discussed.

Two of The North Wind staff say they have been intimidated by administrators and requested the documents to see if there was an orchestrated effort by university administrators to keep the paper from continuing to report on university contracts.

Last month, the university said it would cost $613 for the emails, then reduced that to $300.

After The North Wind board refused to pay for the documents, several journalism organizations, the public and alumni came forward with offers and checks to pay for the documents. After media reports and a public outcry on social media, President Fritz Erickson waived all fees on Jan. 17.

Originally, the administration said it would have the documents to The North Wind for review by the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 22.

Documents were not received until Saturday, Jan. 24 when nearly 200 documents were provided. The North Wind reviewed the initial documents and found that most were emails sent by North Wind staff members to administrators.

A remaining 1,000 documents, along with a letter from Vice President of Finance and Administration Gavin Leach, reached The North Wind Monday, Jan. 26. Included in Leach’s letter was a blanket list of exemptions. The exemptions were not tied to specific redactions or missing documents.

After consulting with The North Wind’s legal counsel, the newspaper decided to appeal the university’s decision in order to obtain the missing or redacted documents and to have the exemptions for each redacted portion cited specifically.

“Appeals are a regular part of the FOIA process and allow the university to clarify why redactions were made legally,” Hall said.

The total redactions done, according to Hall, were eight full emails and a range between 30 and 35 partial redactions. He said most redactions concerned the privacy of another student. The North Wind’s editor and adviser have waived their rights to privacy.

“If any emails are determined to be missing, they will be supplied quickly,” Hall said. “As far as we know, all emails have been supplied, however, it is not a perfect process.”

Hall reported that to date the search and retrieval process has cost the university $1,061 in work hours not including legal counsel hours.

Hall said all administrators, especially President Fritz Erickson, are seeking cooperation with The North Wind. He said he currently feels better about the cooperation between the university and the paper because of a direct line of communication with the editor in chief.

“Central administration does not control or have power over The North Wind,” Hall said. “It is up to us to work together and that is why the editor in chief of The North Wind has my cell phone number and can call me anytime.”

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