The definition of "public records or files" is found in Connecticut General Statutes § 1-200(5), which states that “any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, or to which a public agency is entitled to receive a copy by law or contract under section 1-218, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.”
Accordingly, UConn employees should be aware that written correspondence shared with university colleagues or persons outside of the university is very likely to fall within the definition of a public record and could be subject to public disclosure unless otherwise exempt. This includes emails and other written communications created in the course of university business on an office computer, laptop, home computer (if used for university business), or any mobile device such as a tablet, smart phone or cell phone.
UConn's FOIA Process
Any request for records, even if not identified as a public records request, received by any university department, office or employee should be treated as a time sensitive matter and forwarded immediately to University Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org. The university is required by state law to either comply or acknowledge receipt of the request within four business days. University public records staff will review and discuss the request with the appropriate university department in possession of the responsive records.
The university department in possession of the requested records will assist in compiling the responsive documents and transfer them to university public records staff in a timely manner. The documents will be reviewed to determine whether there are any applicable exemptions under state or federal law that might be cause for non-disclosure or redaction of certain records. Once the records have been reviewed, they will be provided to the requester as appropriate. The requester will be advised in writing if one or more records will not be disclosed and/or is redacted, including the basis for withholding/redacting.
UConn Faculty/Staff FAQ
Are emails subject to FOIA requests?
Yes. UConn employees should be aware that any emails sent or received by them on a university email account are very likely public records that are subject to disclosure under FOIA. Confidential or private information contained within emails, such as student information protected under FERPA, may be withheld or redacted as appropriate, but most emails of UConn employees are public records subject to disclosure.
As an employee, will I be notified that records I have created, or records about me, have been requested?
Although not legally required, UConn's public records staff will typically notify an employee that a request has been made for records referencing their name, position, or area of university responsibility. We may, at times, seek your assistance to process the request and/or review the responsive documents.
How exhaustive must our department’s search efforts be when looking for records related to a request?
It is imperative that when a department is asked to gather records responsive to FOIA requests that they conduct a thorough search in a timely fashion. This search will usually include a review of hard copy files, email correspondence and documents that might be maintained on a computer hard drive. The public records staff can assist you.
How much time does the university have to respond?
The university must either comply with or acknowledge receipt of the request within four business days of the university's receipt of the request. Failure to take action could result in a complaint being filed with the Freedom of Information Commission against the university. In the event that documents are easily identified and immediately available, the university will transfer the records to the requester as soon as possible. In circumstances when the request requires the compilation and review of voluminous documents, the records may be produced on an ongoing basis over a reasonable period of time.