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.
Citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of media with circulation in or broadcasting into Virginia have the following rights under FOIA:
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.
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.
Requests for records from Longwood University and/or any questions may be directed to:
FOIA Officer, Longwood University
201 High Street
Farmville, VA 23909
Phone: (434) 395-2023
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:
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.
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.
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.
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: