An open records request for imaginary documents

For anybody out there who’s still keeping up with these things: I’ve submitted yet another Data Practices Act request to the University of Minnesota.  Of course, I’ve submitted quite a few of these requests in the past, but there is something  unusual about this one.  This time I am asking for documents that probably don’t exist.

On September 1, 2010, General Counsel Mark Rotenberg issued a press release in response to my article in Mother Jones magazine about the death of Dan Markingson.  Rotenberg claimed that the issues I had raised in the article had already been reviewed by “the University and its IRB,” among other bodies, and that none of these “reviews” had found any fault with the university or any university faculty members.  Although this claim was repeated by Rotenberg and others many times in the years that followed, neither Rotenberg nor anyone else at the university has ever produced these “reviews” — not the review supposedly conducted by the IRB, and not the review supposedly conducted by “the University.”  In fact, according to the deposition of Richard Bianco, the university official in charge of research oversight, the IRB never even conducted a review.

Do did these reviews occur or not?  If they did, they should be publicly available under state law. But if they did not occur, as I strongly suspect, then we should be told explicitly that they did not occur. That’s the question that I am hoping my latest Data Practices Act request will answer.

Of course, longtime blog-watchers will remember when I’ve made these Data Practices Act requests in the past, I’ve been stonewalled again and again. The university has sent replies ranging from “We destroyed those records” and “We can’t give you that” to “We can’t seem to find those particular records.”  I suspect the university will come up with some creative way to avoid answering my request this time as well.  But I am a glutton for punishment.

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