1.Purpose

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro seeks to conduct its business in an open and transparent manner.  Records made or received pursuant to law or ordinance in connection with the transaction of public business are considered to be property of the people of the State of North Carolina.  Accordingly, this policy is implemented in accordance with the North Carolina Public Records Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. Chapter 132, and other applicable federal and state laws.   

2.Scope

This policy applies to all University employees and officials including members of the Board of Trustees.

3.Definitions, Roles, and Responsibilities

3.1Public Records Defined

“Public record” or “public records” means all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data-processing records, artifacts, or other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance in connection with the transaction of public business by any agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions.  

3.2Records Custodian

A “Records Custodian” is a departmental designee who is in control of public records.  University employees are custodians of their own records. In addition, departments or units may have a designated custodian in possession of departmental records, who may be called upon to assist with the location and curation of records.

3.3Public Records Officer

The “Public Records Officer” is the individual responsible for reviewing, tracking, and at times responding, to public records requests. The Public Records Officer (“PRO”) works in the Office of General Counsel.

4.Policy

The Policy of UNC Greensboro is to conduct the public business in a transparent manner that is consistent with federal and state laws and regulations and effectively applies any  relevant qualifying statutes or laws related to confidentiality, professional privilege, and personal use to all records generated in the course of University business. In accordance with N.C. Gen. Stat. 132-1, the University will, as promptly as possible, provide responses to public records requests in accordance with the procedures outlined in section 5, below.

With respect to confidentiality, it is the policy of UNC Greensboro to comply with various state and federal laws and to provide for the confidentiality of certain records protected by law, including,  but not limited to, FERPA, HIPAA, the State Personnel Act, and the Public Records Act itself.  

UNC Greensboro also has compliance and reporting obligations related to tracking Public Records requests. Therefore, all Campus departments and units must consult with the Public Records Officer in the Office of General Counsel before responding to public records requests and report to the Office of General Counsel all public records requests received by their records custodians.  This consultation also serves to ensure that all other qualifiers that may impact the release of public records, including confidentiality and professional privilege, inform the final release of records. 

4.1Public Records Requests and Duties of Records Custodian of Each Unit

4.1.1

Members of the public may make requests for Public Records in any format. Providing a written request with contact information and enough detail for the University to clearly identify what records are being sought will help to ensure that a request is fulfilled accurately and efficiently. Persons who seek to access the public records of the University should direct a request to the University’s Public Records Officer (“PRO”) at public.records@uncg.edu. Requests can also be made to the custodians of the records being sought.

4.1.2

If a request is not made in writing, the Records Custodian should consult with the PRO to produce a written response to the requestor stating the University’s understanding of what records are being requested.

4.1.3

If the requestor cannot or will not reduce an oral request to writing, or they do not want to identify themselves, then the Records Custodian will reduce the request to writing and will obtain the requestor’s agreement to the accuracy of the writing before proceeding further.

4.1.4

After consultation with the PRO, the Records Custodian for each University unit must permit inspection of, or provide electronic versions of, the requested records as promptly as possible after receiving the public records request. The Records Custodian may also make copies of the requested documents, subject to the provisions on copying costs below. Access to public records may be limited to reasonable times during regular business hours and under reasonable supervision. The PRO must separate out or redact any confidential information from otherwise accessible public records prior to public inspection of requested records.

4.2Costs for Copies, Materials and Mailing and Special Service Fee for Extensive Requests

4.2.1Standard Requests (fewer than four hours)

If responding to the request for public records will take an employee fewer than four hours, then the University will charge only for the actual costs of (i) making copies ($.05 per page), (ii) any materials used (e.g. DVD’s, flash drives, etc.) and (iii) mailing. Generally, the University will not charge for the costs of making copies, materials used, or mailing unless they total twenty-five dollars ($25.00) or more.

4.2.2Extensive Requests (more than four hours)

The University considers four (4) or more hours of information technology, clerical or supervisory employee time as constituting extensive assistance. If responding to the request will involve extensive assistance, the University may charge a special service fee (based upon the hourly rate of pay of the employee(s) who will respond to the request, rounded to the next whole dollar). The special service fee shall be based on the actual hours of labor required to respond to the request above and beyond the first four (4) hours (which remain free). In addition, the University may charge for actual copying ($.05 per page), actual cost of any materials used (such as DVD’s) and actual cost of mailing which costs total more than twenty-five dollars ($25.00).

4.2.3Cost Estimates for Extensive Requests

The Public Records Officer shall estimate the total cost of responding to such extensive requests in writing prior to making the documents and/or information available for inspection and allow the requestor the option of either agreeing in writing to pay the total cost or revising the request to narrow its nature or scope. If the agreed upon estimate turns out to be higher than the actual labor, mailing, materials and copying costs, then the University shall thereafter reduce the charge to the requestor. If, part way into the document retrieval process, it becomes evident to the Public Records Officer that the original estimate was too low, the Public Records Officer will suspend the process and ask the requestor whether the process should continue at a new and higher agreed estimated total cost or whether the process should cease, in which case the requestor will pay for and receive only the documents and/or information that have been retrieved to that point. If the University, in reliance upon the requestor’s agreement to pay the total estimated cost, retrieves the requested documents and/or information, but the requestor thereafter refuses to pay the agreed upon amount, then the University may withhold the documents and/or information until payment is received. 

4.3Multiple Requests Consolidated

Multiple requests within a short period of time from the same individual or the same organization will be considered a single request for purposes of determining whether and how much to charge.

5.Common Record Requests and Restrictions

Although not an exhaustive listing, the following sets forth general guidelines with regard to the most common types of public records requests where release of University records may be restricted based on other laws, regulations, or policies.

5.1Personnel records

An employee’s personnel records are confidential in accordance with the NC Personnel Records Act, except the following information which is considered public about every employee:

  • Name;
  • Age;
  • Date of original employment or appointment to State service; the terms of any contract by which the employee is employed by the University, past and current, written or oral (to the extent the University has the written contract or a record of the oral contract in its possession);
  • Current position;
  • Current title;
  • Current salary (including pay, benefits, incentives and deferred comp);
  • Date and amount of each increase or decrease in salary with the University;
  • Date and type of each promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation or other change in position classification with the University;
  • Date and general description of the reasons for each promotion with the University;
  • Date and type of each dismissal, suspension, or demotion for disciplinary reasons taken by the University (if the disciplinary action was dismissal, a copy of the written notice of the final decision setting forth the specific acts or omissions that are the basis of the dismissal shall be available); and
  • Office or station to which the employee is currently assigned.

5.2Medical and Counseling Records

State privilege laws and HIPAA require that medical and counseling records be kept confidential, subject to very few exceptions. (See link to HIPAA policy below).

5.3Student Education Records

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) restricts the information that may be released about students. (See link to FERPA policy below).

5.4Miscellaneous Confidential Records

  • Patent applications and other documents that contain trade secrets;
  • Certain criminal investigation and law enforcement records;
  • Minutes of closed meetings under the NC Open Meetings Act;
  • Personally identifiable admissions information;
  • Social Security numbers;
  • Emergency response plans;
  • Public security plans; and
  • Detailed drawings of University buildings and infrastructure.

6.Compliance and Enforcement

Any violation of this policy by faculty or staff may be considered “misconduct” under EHRA policies (faculty and EHRA non-faculty) and “unacceptable personal conduct” under SHRA policies, including any appeal rights stated therein. Violations of law may also be referred for criminal or civil prosecution.

7.Additional Information

7.1Regular Review

The Office of General Counsel will periodically review this policy as necessary.

7.3Approval Authority

Chancellor

7.4Contacts for Additional Information and Reporting

Responsible Administrator: Public Records Officer, 336-334-3067, public.records@uncg.edu

Responsible Executive: General Counsel, 336-334-3067

Revisions

Revision Date Revision Summary
12/03/2019

- Public Records Policy. Retrieved 02/22/2020. Official version at https://policy.uncg.edu/university_policies/public-records-policy-2/. Copyright © 2020 The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.