Operating Procedures for Responding to Requests for University Records
These procedures outline a centralized process for responding to public records requests and subpoenas by third parties in claims or lawsuits to which the University is not a party.
As a state institution, many of Purdue University’s files and records are generally subject to inspection and copying by members of the public, unless there is an applicable exception to their disclosure. Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act has many such exceptions, which must be considered by the Public Records Administrator before affording that access.
Purdue University and its employees are also subject to the subpoena powers of state and federal courts. Through the issuance of subpoenas, third parties involved in claims and lawsuits often seek to obtain University records that they consider relevant, even when the University is not a party to the claim or lawsuit. These third-party subpoenas may present confidentiality issues or be objectionable for other valid reasons related to the files or records requested. The Office of Legal Counsel must review all subpoenas to ensure any objections are preserved before responding to valid subpoenas.
If someone contacts your department to request access to any public record:
- Clearly state that you have no authority to receive, grant or deny any request for access.
- Instruct them to contact the Public Records Administrator for your campus:
- You also may direct them to the request form:
If a public records request form or other written request for access to any public record is delivered to your department, please forward it to the campus Public Records Administrator immediately.
If you are served a subpoena that requires production of any University record or requires your attendance at a legal proceeding because you are a University employee:
- Immediately contact the Office of Legal Counsel at 765-494-0485 and arrange to forward the subpoena for review.
- Do not attempt to comply with or respond in any way to the subpoena until you have received instructions from the Office of Legal Counsel.
A public record is broadly defined as any writing, paper, report, study, map, photograph, book, card, tape recording or other material that is created, received, retained, maintained, or filed by or with a public agency and that is generated on paper, paper substitutes, photographic media, chemically-based media, magnetic or machine readable media, or any other material, regardless of form or characteristics.
Inspect is defined to include the right to do the following:
- Manually transcribe and make notes, abstracts, or memoranda.
- In the case of tape recordings or other aural public records, to listen and manually transcribe or duplicate, or make notes, abstracts, or other memoranda from them.
- In the case of public records available a) by enhanced access or b) to a governmental entity to examine and copy the public records by use of an electronic device.
- In the case of electronically stored data, to manually transcribe and make notes, abstracts, or memoranda or to duplicate the data onto a disk, tape, drum, or any other medium of electronic storage.
A subpoena is a formal legal order issued by a court or an officer of a court that may direct third parties to produce records and documents in their possession or compel their attendance in connection with a legal proceeding.
Responding to Requests for Access to Public Records
In response to requests for access to public records, all decisions regarding disclosure or nondisclosure are made only by the campus Public Records Administrator, who acts on each request in the light of the complete statute and the particular factual situation, with legal advice and assistance as necessary.
Promptly upon receipt of a request, the Public Records Administrator completes the following:
- To the extent deemed necessary, identify and review the records to which access has been requested. In order to accomplish this, the Public Records Administrator will contact the University department(s) responsible for the records and request assistance in gathering the records to be reviewed.
- Consult with Legal Counsel on any legal issues involved, as necessary.
- Prepare a response to the requesting party within either (a) seven calendar days following the day the written request was received via mail, email or facsimile or (b) 24 hours if the request is made by someone physically present in the office of the Public Records Administrator. Intervening weekends and holidays are not included in computing the 24-hour time period. If it is not reasonably possible to research and produce the requested documents within the prescribed time period, the response will notify the requestor that a review is in process. In those circumstances, the documents will be produced as soon as is reasonably possible.
- If access (either in whole or in part) to the records described in the Request for Public Record form is permitted, the response will detail where and when the requested inspection may take place. Any charges for making photocopies will also be detailed in the response. The charges will not exceed the University's actual costs for such copying.
- If access (either in whole or in part) to the records described in the Request for Public Record form is denied, the response will detail the specific exception(s) that form(s) the basis of the denial.
- When a sponsored project is funded with a federal grant, the grant proposal, project description and funding agreement are subject to the provisions of the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Requests of this nature go to the federal agency funding the project, who, in turn, contacts the University to ascertain whether any information should be withheld under the provisions of FOIA. Sponsored Program Services will notify the Public Records Administrator and the project’s principal investigator (PI) when a request of this type is received. The Public Records Administrator will work with the PI to determine whether redactions are appropriate based on the content of the requested material and the provisions of FOIA and respond to the request within the timeframe stipulated by the requesting federal agency.
Responding to Third-Party Subpoenas for Production of University Records
All decisions on the appropriate response to a subpoena are made by the Office of Legal Counsel.
The Office of Legal Counsel will coordinate the University’s timely response to the subpoena and ensure that all of its legal obligations are met and all appropriate objections are preserved. Subpoenas demanding production of “protected health information" from “covered components," as those terms are defined by the University’s policy on Compliance with HIPAA Privacy and Security Regulations (VIII.A.1), as amended or superseded, require particular care and attention. The Office of Legal Counsel will evaluate and prepare the University’s response to such subpoenas in accordance with applicable law.
Requests for access to records covered under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 are handled in accordance with the policy on Access to Student Education Records (VIII.A.4).
Procedures for responding to discovery requests in cases where the University and/or University officials or employees are directly involved as parties are NOT within the scope of these procedures. Discovery requests of this nature continue to be conducted pursuant to consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel.
Responsibility for These Procedures
Legal Counsel is the public records officer for the University. He or she designates a Public Records Administrator for each campus to be responsible for responding to requests for access to public records and to third-party subpoenas for University records. The Office of Legal Counsel is responsible for maintaining these procedures.
History and Updates
June 1, 2016: These procedures supersede the policy on Disclosure of University Records in Connection with the "Access to Public Records" Act and in Response to Third-Party Subpoenas (VIII.A.3).