October 29, 2012
Purdue Profiles: Lucia Anderson
Lucia Anderson, special projects manager for
Business Services. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
Lucia Anderson works tirelessly to ensure that the steady stream of public records requests Purdue receives are handled quickly, efficiently and according to law.
Whether the requests come from reporters, attorneys, contractors or general members of the public, Anderson considers each one carefully and determines how best to respond. It's a job with no shortage of work -- each week, eight or nine requests come in, Anderson says. A special projects manager in Business Services, Anderson has 13 years of experience working with public records at Purdue.
What types of public records requests do you handle?
While the public records administrator, Gene Ann Fausett handles the more routine public records requests, I typically deal with the most complicated ones. For example, I respond to folks who are requesting copies of high-level employees' contracts -- such as the president's or athletic coaches'. I also handle anything that has the potential to become a public relations matter; therefore, I deal with most media members' public records requests. Those range from everything to a database of employees' salaries to the details of vendors' contracts to copies of emails sent from or to Purdue addresses. The email requests usually take the longest to process simply because of the volume of data involved.
How do public records laws work?
The law states that when a records request is submitted to us, we have seven days to confirm receipt of the request and to tell the requester how we plan to proceed. There are some records federal law requires us to keep private. For example, students' academic records, unless they consent to their release, are private under the federal Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and are exempt from disclosure. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires us to keep all medical information private. Faculty research is exempt from disclosure, too.
When it comes to requests, they must be worded in a way that allows us to determine whether the information is subject to the Public Records Act and whether we can reasonably provide the documents referenced. For example, if someone asks for all emails sent and received from Purdue addresses that reference the presidential election or something similarly vague, then trying to pull all those emails would crash our system. We try to work with requesters to make sure they're using precise, specific language so we can get them exactly what they need in a timely manner.
The hardest thing about my job is getting everyone to understand that anything written in an email sent or received from a Purdue address can be read through public records requests process. It's an old adage, but it's true: Don't write anything or keep records of anything on campus that you wouldn't want your mother or your boss to read. It's important to keep in mind that most business conducted at Purdue truly happens in the public eye.
Which are some other examples of public records requests?
We have some public records requests that I think end up positively impacting the University. For example, private contractors often request copies of bids that were submitted to Purdue for specific commodities. In those cases, the contractors typically want to see the bids their competition submitted and which company the University ended up using. Those situations probably result in the contractors submitting lower bids the next time they're vying to complete a project. In turn, that allows the University to save money.
Another encouraging type of public records requests involves background checks for students who are applying for government jobs. Seniors hoping to work at agencies such as the FBI or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are required to submit to a background check, and those involve records they must authorize the University to release. I always like filling those requests, because it means I'm helping students achieve their dreams.
How do you balance adhering to the law with helping guard individuals' privacy?
It's a fine line. We always follow the law, but sometimes there are questions of whether the information requested should fall under one of the exemptions we're allowed. In those cases, I work closely with the University's legal team to get advice about what information we can and should release.Writer: Amanda Hamon, 49-61325, firstname.lastname@example.org