The Algonquin Times agreed to pay the college a $1,860 searching fee after a freedom of information request for documents and emails related to the former Algonquin campus in Saudi Arabia.
The Times request, filed on Jan. 30, requested e-mails exchanged between management at the campus in Jazan, Saudi Arabia, and college executives in Ottawa. It specifically includes president Cheryl Jensen, former president Kent MacDonald and the vice-president who led the Jazan effort, Doug Wotherspoon.
It also requested documents such as memos, financial statements and briefing notes to the president.
In a letter to the Times, Duane McNair, Algonquin’s freedom of information coordinator, wrote that the college had estimated it would take about 62 hours to find and compile the material. The college charges $7.50 per 15 minutes of searching, which equals a total of $1,860.
“The scope of (the) request is very broad and would require the use of significant college resources in order to fulfill it,” McNair wrote, declining the Times’ request to waive the fee. He said in a subsequent meeting that the search would take a few months, into next semester.
The fee was the largest quoted by the college for any freedom of information request since 2013, when a different Times request was quoted at over $5,500. That fee was waived, although McNair could not immediately say why.
“There’s been a lot of controversy over Jazan and we believe the college should be held accountable,” said Stuart Kite, editor of the Times. “We believe this will be the next step in figuring out what happened.”
Since the estimate is over $100, the college requested the Times make a 50 per cent deposit, or $930, before the search for documents begin.
Under Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, it is legal for an organization to charge a searching fee after a request.
The Times is owned by the Algonquin Students’ Association and the fee will be withdrawn from the campus newspaper’s $60,000 budget.
The controversial male-only Jazan campus opened in 2013. After losing $4.3 million, Algonquin pulled out of the venture in 2016 and transferred management to a British firm.