About FOIA

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located § 2.2-3700, et. seq., of the Code of Virginia, guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth and certain news outlets the right to request and receive public records held by public bodies, officials and employees, subject to certain exemptions.

A public record is any writing or recording—regardless of whether it is paper, electronic, video or any other format—that is prepared, owned by or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business. Public records are presumed to be open and may be withheld only if a specific statutory exemption applies.

The purpose of FOIA is to promote increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities. FOIA requires that the law be interpreted liberally, in favor of access, and that any exemption from public access must be interpreted narrowly.


Your FOIA Rights

Citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of media with circulation in or broadcasting into Virginia have the following rights under FOIA:

  • The right to request to inspect or receive copies of public records, or both.
  • The right to request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance.
  • The right to file a petition in district or circuit court to compel compliance with FOIA if it is believed that rights under FOIA have been violated. Alternatively, the FOIA Council can be contacted for a nonbinding advisory opinion.

Requesting Records from Longwood University

Requests for access to public records may be made by U.S. mail, e-mail, in person or over the phone. FOIA does not require that your request be in writing, nor do you need to specifically state that you are requesting records under FOIA.

From a practical perspective, it may be helpful to both you and the person receiving your request for it to be made in writing. This allows you to create a record of your request and it gives a clear statement of the records being requested so that there is no misunderstanding over a verbal request. However, Longwood will respond to your FOIA request if you elect to not put it in writing.

  • Requests must identify the records being sought with “reasonable specificity.” This is a common-sense standard. It does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records that are being requested; instead, it requires that you be specific enough so that we can identify and locate the records that you are seeking.
  • FOIA requests must seek access to existing records or documents. FOIA does not require the production of information that is not in existing records or documents, answering general questions about the work of Longwood University, or the creation of records that do not already exist.
  • Requestors may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by Longwood University in the regular course of business. For example, if the requested records are maintained in an Excel database, you may elect to receive those records electronically, via e-mail or to receive a printed copy of those records.

Making a FOIA request is not an adversarial process, but it may be necessary to discuss a particular request to ensure that the nature and scope of the request is fully understood. If we have questions about your request, please cooperate with staff efforts to clarify the type of records that you are seeking, or to attempt to reach a reasonable agreement about a response to a large request.


Make a FOIA Request

Requests for records from Longwood University and/or any questions may be directed to:

Lauren Whittington
FOIA Officer, Longwood University
201 High Street
Farmville, VA 23909
FOIA@f1zg.net
Phone: (434) 395-2023


Longwood University's Responsibilities in Responding to Your Request

Longwood University must respond to your request within five working days of receiving it. “Day one” is considered the day after your request is received. The five-day period does not include weekends, holidays or days that Longwood University is closed.

The reason for the request for public records is irrelevant and need not be identified before the university responds to your request. However, FOIA does allow Longwood University to ask you to provide your name and legal address and to seek clarification of any request.

FOIA requires that Longwood University make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:

  1. Provide the records that you have requested in their entirety.
  2. Withhold all of the requested records because all of the records are subject to specific statutory exemptions. If all of the records are being withheld, a written response must be provided that identifies the volume and subject matter of the records being withheld, as well as the specific section of the Code of Virginia that permits withholding.
  3. Provide some of the requested records and withhold others. An entire record cannot be withheld if only a portion of it is subject to an exemption. In that instance, the protected portion of the record may be redacted and the remainder of the record will be supplied. A written response citing the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows portions of the requested records to be withheld will be provided.
  4. Inform you in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist. (Longwood University does not have the records you want.) However, if Longwood University knows that another public body has the requested records, we must include contact information for the other public body in our response. 
  5. If it is practically impossible for Longwood University to respond to a FOIA request within the five-day period, a written response to this effect must be provided, in which case, FOIA permits seven additional working days to respond to the request. 

If a very large volume of records is requested, or, if other circumstances would render it difficult or impossible to provide the requested records within 12 working days without disrupting the university’s other organizational responsibilities, FOIA requires that we make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement concerning the production of the records. If an agreement cannot be reached, it may be necessary for Longwood University to seek permission for additional response time through the courts. 


Costs

A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records and shall make all reasonable efforts to supply the requested records at the lowest possible cost. No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary, or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the public body. Any duplicating fee charged by a public body shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication. Prior to conducting a search for records, the public body shall notify the requester in writing that the public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for requested records and inquire of the requester whether he would like to request a cost estimate in advance of the supplying of the requested records as set forth in subsection F of § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia. Requesting an estimate allows the requester to know about any costs in advance and can provide an opportunity to modify a request in an attempt to lower the estimated costs.

FOIA permits agencies to charge for the actual costs of responding to requests, such as time spent searching the requested records, copying or printing costs per sheet of paper or any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records. Charges cannot include general overhead costs. The hourly rate (base rate of pay) of the Longwood employee(s) conducting research and/or preparing the response and the number of hour(s) required to fulfill the request will be used to calculate a total time-cost estimate to the requestor. Charges include the time for research, locating records, data analysis and redaction, if required. Longwood University may waive fees for smaller public records requests.

If the cost to fulfill the request is estimated to be more than $200, the university may require a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with your request. The five days allowed for response does not include the time between when the university asks for a deposit and when you respond.

An estimate is just that—an estimate. Actual costs may be greater or lesser than the estimated amount. In which case, Longwood University will refund any overage paid or will provide an invoice for any balance due. If there is an outstanding balance owed to Longwood University from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, Longwood University may require payment of the past-due amount before it will respond to a new FOIA request from the same individual.


Types of Records Maintained by Longwood University

Longwood University maintains many different types of public records, including scholastic records; research records; personnel records; contracts, law enforcement records; correspondence created in the course of public business, etc.


Common FOIA Exemptions

The Code of Virginia allows public bodies to withhold certain records from public disclosure. Longwood University commonly withholds records, including but not limited to, the following exemptions:

  • Scholastic records [Code of Virginia 2.2-3705.4(A)(1) and §2.2-3705.4(B)]
  • Personnel records [Code of Virginia 2.2-3705.1(1)]
  • Public safety, health and social services records [Code of Virginia 2.2-3705.2 and §2.2-3705.5]
  • Working papers and correspondence of the President of Longwood University [Code of Virginia 2.2-3705.7(2)]
  • Records subject to attorney-client privilege [Code of Virginia 2.2-3705.1(2)] or attorney work product [Code of Virginia §2.2-3705.1(3)]
  • Faculty proprietary information [Code of Virginia 2.2-3705.4(4)]
  • Vendor proprietary information [Code of Virginia 2.2-3705.1(6)]
  • Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded [Code of Virginia 2.2-3705.1(12)]
  • Appraisals and cost estimates of real property subject to a proposed purchase, sale, or lease, prior to the completion of such purchase, sale, or lease [Code of Virginia 2.2-3705.1(8)]