Public Information

Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act and Christopher Newport University
It is the purpose of Virginia's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities. In order to advance its purpose, FOIA provisions are interpreted liberally, in favor of access, and any exemption from FOIA's access requirements must be interpreted narrowly.

Rights of Requestors and Responsibilities of Christopher Newport University under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located at 2.2-3700 et Seq. of the Code of Virginia, guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media access to public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees. This summary is provided for use by individual citizens or media outlets seeking access to public records from CNU.

A public record is any writing or recording - whether it is a paper record, electronic file, audio or video recording, or in any other format - that is prepared by, owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents, in the transaction of public business.

Rights of Requestors:
You may request to inspect or receive copies of public records by mail, by fax, by email, in person, or over the phone:

  • a request for records does not have to be made in writing;
  • a request for records does not need to refer to FOIA;
  • a request must be for existing records; FOIA does not require creation of the requested record.

A request should be as specific as possible (the law requires "reasonable specificity") in order to facilitate identification and location of the records requested. In this regard, and as a practical matter, it is always helpful if a request is made in writing even though it is not required. A written request promotes a mutual understanding of the request and a point of reference for all should discussions be necessary in the course of providing a response.

Virginia's FOIA provides exceptions that permit CNU to withhold certain public records from disclosure. In addition, there are state and federal laws that forbid disclosure of certain public records. If you are denied access to records or documents you have requested, you have the right to know what law or exemption requires or permits the record or document to be withheld.

If a request is large or difficult to respond to, CNU may charge you the actual cost of its response. If a decision is made to charge for the response, you have the right to have the charges estimated in advance, so that you have the opportunity to modify your request to reduce the cost, or to withdraw your request.

To request documents or records from CNU, please contact:

Tom Kramer
Office of Communications & Public Relations
Christopher Newport University
1 Avenue of the Arts
Newport News, Virginia 23606
tkramer@cnu.edu

If we have questions about your request, please cooperate with our staff's efforts to clarify you are seeking, or to attempt to reach a reasonable agreement about a response, if the request is large or the records are difficult to access.

If you believe your FOIA rights have been violated, you have the right to file a petition in district or circuit court to compel compliance with the law.

CNU's Responsibilities:

If you request public documents or records, CNU is required to respond to your request within 5 workdays:

  • the 5 day period does not include weekends or holidays;
  • day one is the first day after your request is received.

CNU is permitted to ask you to provide your name and address.

CNU must respond to your request, within 5 days, in one of the following ways:

  • By providing the records requested;
  • With a written response explaining that the requested records will not be disclosed and identifying the specific provision of law that requires or allows the records to be withheld;
  • By providing some records, but not others (as above, exemptions allowing or requiring records to be withheld must be identified and, if only a portion of a record is subject to an exemption, that portion may be redacted, but the entire record may not be withheld on that basis); or
  • If it is - as a practical matter - impossible for CNU to provide one of the above responses in 5 days, a written response explaining the conditions that make it impossible. In this circumstance, CNU has an additional 7 workdays to respond in one of the 3 ways set out above.

If you request a large volume of records, and CNU believes it cannot provide the records to you with 12 days without disrupting our other organizational responsibilities, we may petition the court for additional time. However, prior to doing that, the law requires CNU to make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with you concerning providing the records.

Other Important Information

You may have to pay for the records that you request.

FOIA permits CNU to charge for the actual cost of responding to a request for records:

  • actual costs include staff time spent searching for the requested records, copying costs, or any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records (it can not include general overhead costs);
  • if we estimate it will cost more than $200 to respond, we may require you to pay a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before we proceed;
  • the time we have to respond does not include any time after we request a deposit until you respond;
  • you may request that we estimate the charges in advance so that you have the opportunity to modify your request to reduce the estimated cost;
  • if you owe payment for a previous request and response, that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, CNU may require payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA request.

In general, CNU maintains the following categories of records:

  • business records
  • financial records
  • personnel (faculty and staff) records
  • student records
  • accreditation records
  • athletics records
  • Board of Visitors records
  • student organization and services records

This list is intended as a summary and is not intended to be exhaustive.

CNU commonly withholds records subject to the following exemptions:

  • personnel records ( - 3705.1(1))
  • records related to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to the contract being awarded (-3705.1(12))
  • scholastic records (- 3705.3)
  • records subject to the attorney client privilege (-3705.1(2)) or attorney work product (-3705.1(3))
  • vendor proprietary information (-3705.1(6))
This list is not intended to limit CNU's application of other available exemptions to withhold requested records as deemed necessary.
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