University of Georgia Open Records

Updated: June 15, 2016

The University of Georgia Division of Marketing & Communications is responsible for administering the University's compliance with the Georgia Open Records Act. This law places important responsibilities on University administrators and staff members. University administrators and staff members should be sure to notify the Division of Marketing & Communications (706-542-8090 or ugaopenrecordsrequest@uga.edu) immediately upon receipt of a request for University records.

All requests for documents are required to be made to the attention of the University’s Open Records Manager (ugaopenrecordsrequest@uga.edu).

The Division of Marketing & Communications seeks to make the University's open records compliance procedures user-friendly, non-adversarial, and transparent. The laws of Georgia make virtually every record held by UGA, with certain exceptions, accessible to any citizen who requests it. Placing unnecessary barriers between the people and the records to which the law entitles them access serves no positive purpose for the institution. Therefore, it is the University's goal to comply with requests for records under the provisions of the Open Records Act in a prompt and reasonable manner.

Please call the University of Georgia Division of Marketing & Communications (706-542-8090) immediately whenever an issue arises regarding the application of the Georgia Open Records Act.

Procedure for Handling Open Records Requests

Any University employee receiving a request for records held under his/her individual or departmental responsibility should immediately notify the Open Records Manager in the University of Georgia Division of Marketing & Communications (706-542-8090 or ugaopenrecordsrequest@uga.edu). A request may be verbal — it is not necessary that a request be in writing — although any requestor may submit a written request under the law if they so desire. If you are uncertain whether a request for records triggers obligations under the Open Records Act, please seek guidance immediately from the University’s Open Records Manager.

As necessary, the Open Records Manager will contact the requestor directly to clarify the request. The Open Records Manager will contact the administrator responsible for those records to determine whether they exist, how voluminous they might be, and how much time might be required to search and assemble them. If the answer is simple and the records minimal, the records will be produced promptly. For more complicated requests, within three business days of the original request as required by law, the requestor will be notified of the existence of records, provided an estimate of the cost of searching, assembling, reviewing, and copying, and asked for confirmation of the requestor’s willingness to pay the cost estimate. If the answer is affirmative, the department will be notified to gather the records and provide them to the Open Records Manager in the Division of Marketing & Communications as promptly as possible for review, identification of any exempt information, copying, and delivery to the requestor.

Open Records Request

A request can be made by contacting the Open Records Manager in the Division of Marketing & Communications at 706-542-8090 or openrecordsrequest@uga.edu. Requests can also be sent by fax (706-542-9492) or by mail:

University of Georgia | Division of Marketing & Communications
286 Oconee St. Suite 200N
Athens, GA 30602

A request form is provided for convenience: Open_Records_Request_Form.pdf

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Georgia Open Records Act? 

It is a state law requiring that public records be open and available for inspection by any member of the public unless they fall within a specified exemption.

What is a public record?

Public records include virtually all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, computer based or generated information, or similar material prepared, maintained, or received in the course of the operation of a public office or agency.

Does the Open Records Act apply to the University of Georgia?

Yes. The University is a public agency; therefore, it is subject to the act.

Who may make an Open Records Request?

Any member of the public may request an inspection and copy of any public record. It is not necessary for the requestor to show particular need or interest in the matters covered by the record in order to gain access.

How can I make an Open Records Request?

A request can be made by contacting the Open Records Manager in the Division of Marketing & Communications at 706-542-8090 or openrecordsrequest@uga.edu. Requests can also be sent by fax (706-542-9492) or by mail:

University of Georgia | Division of Marketing & Communications
286 Oconee St. Suite 200N
Athens, GA 30602

A request form is provided for convenience: Open_Records_Request_Form.pdf

What is the purpose of the Open Records Act?

The purpose is not only to encourage public access to certain information, but to maintain the public's confidence in government by promoting transparency and openness. The act allows the public to evaluate the functioning of its institutions.

What obligation does the Open Records Act place on the University of Georgia? 

The University must provide access to existing public records in its custody or under its control, including those the University created and those it has received in the course of its operation, unless the records fall within an exemption from the Open Records Act. The University is not required to create a record which does not exist at the time of the request. Nor is the University required to compile requested information into a single document.

Are student records subject to release under the Open Records Act?

Student records, other than limited categories of Directory Information, are exempt from release under the Open Records Act in accordance with § O.C.G.A. 50-18-72(a)(1) and (37), and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99). If you are a student requesting information about yourself, you have specific rights under FERPA (see: http://reg.uga.edu/ferpa_privacy_act). Please contact the school or college department where the information is housed.

Are there other records that may be exempt from disclosure under the Open Records Act?

Yes, the Act contains a list of approximately 50 exemptions that may apply to all or part of otherwise public records. If a public record contains both exempt and non-exempt material, the exempt portion must be removed and the remaining non-exempt material disclosed. The exemptions most relevant to UGA are:

  • medical and veterinary records and other materials involving matters of personal privacy;
  • records relating to pending investigations;
  • records required by the federal government to be kept confidential, such as student educational records;
  • trade secrets and certain information of a proprietary nature;
  • certain research data, records, or information that has not been published, patented, or otherwise publicly disseminated;
  • personal and financial information of donors;
  • confidential evaluations submitted to a public agency in connection with the hiring of a public employee.

Are personnel files subject to disclosure under the Open Records Act? 

Yes. Any exempt material in personnel files, such as social security numbers, medical information, home address and telephone number, or information relating to the designation of beneficiaries, may be redacted.

Are performance evaluations subject to disclosure under the Open Records Act? 

Yes. There is no exemption generally applicable to performance evaluations.

Are e-mails I send and receive subject to disclosure under the Open Records Act? 

If you are a University employee, you should assume that your e-mails are open records, whether or not the subject matter is business-related, if one or more of the following criteria are met:

  • they involve state business
  • they are sent using a UGA account (even if on a privately-owned computer from home)
  • they are sent or received on a UGA-owned device, no matter where it is located.

Unless an exemption applies, such e-mails may be subject to disclosure if requested under the Georgia Open Records Act.

As a University employee, what is my responsibility to preserve public records? 

Although other federal and state laws and Board or Regents policy (http://www.usg.edu/records_management/) require the University to maintain certain records for a period of years, no particular records are required to be maintained by the Georgia Open Records Act until they have been requested. Once they are the subject of a request, records may not be erased, deleted, shredded, or otherwise discarded under penalty of law.

Must the University notify employees named in records being disclosed? 

Although such notification is not legally required, the University’s general policy and practice is to notify an employee who is the subject of an Open Records Act request before any responsive records are released. This notification is provided as a courtesy to employees and to allow the University to assess any exemptions that may apply to requested records.

What should I do if someone contacts me requesting records from the University?

Whenever you receive a request for University records, you should immediately contact the Open Records Manager in the Division of Marketing & Communications at 706-542-8090 or openrecordsrequest@uga.edu. It is not always clear that a request for documents is being made pursuant to the Open Records Act. The Open Records Manager, in consultation with the Office of Legal Affairs, will evaluate the request and provide you with guidance.

Can the University charge requestors for the cost of copies and staff time used in the search?

The law allows a copying fee of not more than 10 cents per page and a charge for staff time used in the search, review, and processing of documents. This fee is based on the pay rate of the lowest-paid employee qualified to search and assemble the documents. The Open Records Manager is responsible for preparing these cost estimates and assessing the charges to people requesting documents. Charges in excess of $500.00 must be paid in advance.

How critical is the time element in complying with the Open Records Act?

It is critical that any unit receiving a request for records immediately notify the Open Records Manager in the Division of Marketing & Communications. The three-day time frame for the University to comply under the law starts running when it arrives in Marketing & Communications. It is the responsibility of department heads to ensure there is no delay in this notification to the Division of Marketing & Communications, which is responsible for compliance under University policy.

What is the proper procedure for requesting a police report maintained by the UGA Police Department?

Police incident reports maintained by the UGA Police Department are public records. Requests for UGAPD police reports may be made directly to UGAPD by email (records@police.uga.edu) or telephone (706-542-5813).

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