Two former U.S. Peace Corps volunteers filed suit against the organization Wednesday in Washington federal court, demanding the release of data taken from recent volunteer surveys.
Charles Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff, according to their complaint (PDF) in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, are "leading advocates" for reform within the Peace Corps.
The two unsuccessfully pursued Freedom of Information Act requests with the organization for the results of volunteer surveys from 2009 and 2010, broken down by country. The reports, according to the complaint, “expose a wide disparity among the countries and the quality, effectiveness, and performance of the programs, as expressed by the Volunteers.”
According to the complaint, a representative for the Peace Corps denied the request on the grounds that it would reveal personal information about the volunteers. Ludlam and Hirschoff argue in their complaint that their request is for the statistical analysis of the surveys – information that had been made available before, they note – not any individual responses.
Ludlam and Hirschoff, who served with the Peace Corps from 1968 to 1970 and again from 2005 to 2007, and also served as advisors to returning volunteer groups, have butted heads with the organization in the past. The two testified in 2007 before a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on their experiences, and, according the complaint, “highlighted the need for the Peace Corps to listen to and respect Volunteers.”
In the complaint, Ludlam and Hirschoff argue that country-by-country program information is needed to support efforts to reform how the Peace Corps responds to volunteers and also equip prospective volunteers with as much information as possible.
The two cite the 2009 murder of a Peace Corps volunteer and reports on incidents of sexual assault against female volunteers as proof of the public’s interest in having the country-by-country data released.
Sidley Austin partner Jeffrey Kushan is representing Ludlam and Hirschoff. Kushan could did not immediately return a request for comment. A Peace Corps spokeswoman declined to comment since they have not seen the lawsuit.