Who can make a public records request?
Anyone is welcome to file a request for information.
When will I get a response?
Iowa law states that records should be made available during customary office hours, and many simple requests can be completed immediately or within a day or two. However, Iowa law allows public entities such as the UI to determine whether a public record is also a confidential record that need not be released.
The law allows some exceptions to the general rule that public records must be provided. If that is the case, you will be notified with the appropriate section of the law cited as explanation.
If your request will require more than one hour to retrieve documents, there may be charges. If there are charges, you may be required to pay an estimated cost before the UI will begin retrieval of documents that may respond to your request. See Public Records Fee Schedule.
Are there charges for making a request?
The Iowa Code allows governmental bodies, such as the UI, to charge a "reasonable fee" for expenses associated with retrieving, copying, and supervising the examination of public records, but those fees can only be based on actual costs. Governmental bodies may not charge a fee simply to examine a record; however, the governmental agency may charge a fee if the volume of records to be examined is large enough to require supervision to maintain the integrity of the records. See Public Records Fee Schedule.
Does the University have to respond?
The law is mandatory and imposes penalties for noncompliance. The law allows the imposition of damages of up to $500 per violation against persons who improperly deny access to public records.
What records are confidential?
Some documents kept by the UI and other public agencies are not subject to public release. In some cases, these documents can be disclosed following the redaction — “blacking out” — of the information that is confidential.
Iowa Code Section 22.7 has a list of documents that are confidential. The primary exemptions that apply to University documents include:
- Personal information in records regarding a student, prospective student, or former student*
- Personal information in confidential personnel records of UI employees
- Hospital, medical, and professional counselor records
- Trade secrets
- Police officers' investigative reports, except where disclosure is authorized elsewhere in the Iowa Code
- Records containing information from people outside of government, if disclosure would discourage them from providing information that is not required by law
- Certain financial records
- Reports provided to government agencies that contain information that would give advantage to competitors and serve no public purpose
- Information concerning security procedures or emergency preparedness information to protect governmental employees, visitors to campus, persons in the care of the University and/or property (see details below)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that also protects the privacy of student records.
Public Records Exemption for Security-Related Information
Security-related information and records are confidential under Iowa Code § 22.7(50). Disclosure of certain records or information may increase risks to persons and property. This policy is intended to increase the safety and security of persons and property that may be impacted by the public disclosure of University information or records.
Information and records that may be withheld in responding to public records requests in order to protect the safety and security of persons and property include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Information about alarm and security systems used at the university including key codes, passwords, electronic codes, wiring diagrams, security cameras and security camera footage, facilities and parking access records, plans and security procedures and protocols related to such security systems.
- Information about security systems governing access to information technology systems, including passwords, protocols and security hardware and software.
- Security protocols and technical information related to the configuration, access to, design and location of key assets related to utilities, including the power plant, utility tunnels, water, electrical lines and information technology infrastructure.
- Portions of architectural and engineering designs, and other technical information, which are not otherwise publicly available, and which, if disseminated, would significantly compromise the security of a University-owned or leased building or facility.
- Security plans and protocols, including security-related contingency planning and emergency response plans.
- Information related to location of individuals and groups may be withheld in the following situations:
- Travel plans, locations, schedules and itineraries for high-profile individuals visiting the campus
- Travel plans, locations, schedules, itineraries, and calendars for future events of any University employee
- Travel plans, locations, schedules and itineraries of an individual or group when specific threats are known to exist for the individual or group;
- Travel plans, locations, schedules and itineraries of persons conducting specified activities when there is a known and reasonable risk of harm to persons conducting the activity; and
- Reserved seating locations and room numbers of individuals attending events or renting rooms for private purposes.
- Information about specific threats, assessment of specific threats and plans for addressing specific threats held by university-recognized threat assessment teams.
- Information about the location of, and protocols used for sensitive research projects, materials and subjects when there is a known and reasonable risk of sabotage or damage to the project, the materials or subjects of the research.
- Information about the protocols, methods, facilities and equipment used in food production, which is not publicly available, and which, if disseminated, would significantly compromise the security of food production or preparation.
- Information about the location of hazardous materials such as controlled substances, radioactive materials, toxic or reactive materials, ingredients for toxic or reactive materials, explosives and hazardous biological materials.
- Security protocols and information related to cash, cash equivalents and property with unique or extraordinary value.
- Assessments of security vulnerability of the campus or specific campus assets or systems.
The above exemptions are not intended to apply to any information which has been publicly announced or is otherwise readily available. Only information that has a reasonable likelihood of jeopardizing security or safety should be withheld under this policy. A person denied access to the above information may appeal the decision to the university's Transparency Officer.
What if only portions of a document appear to be confidential?
If only some information is confidential, that confidential portion is generally redacted or blacked out. The document is then provided to the requester with the redactions explained by reference to the appropriate section of the law.
What is an educational record?
Any student information maintained by the UI. Examples include grades, enrollment records, class schedules, printed class lists, and test papers. Educational records can exist in many forms: handwritten note, computer file, print, tape, CD, DVD, film, or microfilm. Some records are protected by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Must steps be taken to protect official records from damage?
If original records are provided, the UI will have someone present to supervise the requester as they examine records. The UI is allowed to charge fees for such supervision. The UI may also set reasonable rules for examination of the records to preserve them. For example, it may establish a rule to maintain the order of documents.
How can a requester file a complaint?
A requester who has concerns about a decision to deny release of public records may contact the UI Office of the General Counsel, phone (319) 335-3696 or e-mail email@example.com. Concerns or complaints may also be addressed to the Iowa Public Information Board.
I am a faculty/staff assigned on a public records request. What should I do?
Instructions for records retrieval are available at https://transparency.uiowa.edu/public-records-instructions
More FAQs regarding Chapter 22 are available in the Iowa Public Information Board's website.