FOIA: an introduction

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the FOIA process at JMU, are important tools to build transparency and strengthen trust through increased accountability. At JMU AAUP, we’ve reviewed the JMU FOIA specific webpages and pulled a few key statements to post here.

The JMU FOIA webpage is the most descriptive page. It describes and details the intent of the process:

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (§ 2.2-3700 et. seq., Code of Virginia) guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth … access to public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees.


[t]he policy of FOIA states that the purpose of FOIA is to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities. In furthering this policy, FOIA requires that the law be interpreted liberally, in favor of access, and that any exemption allowing public records to be withheld must be interpreted narrowly.

The timeline for JMU’s response to the request is also prescribed:

The University must respond to your request within five working days of receiving it. “Day One” is considered the day after your request is received.

The JMU FOIA webpage also documents the possible responses required within these five working days:

  1. a statement that records could not be found or do not exist.
  2. if records exist, all non-exempt portions are provided. A written statement of volume and subject matter of any withheld records is also required.
  3. if an additional seven-day period is needed by the JMU, notification is provided. An informal agreement or court petition is needed to extend past a twelve working day period.

If you think the JMU FOIA process might be useful to you, visit the JMU FOIA request portal. The process is open to all Virginia residents, and the requests should be for public records — records prepared or used for public business. Although there are records that are exempt (i.e. legal, personnel, health, scholastic), the vast majority of material is public should be accessible though the FOIA process.

JMU AAUP submitted three FOIAs last year. Two were related to the decision that all written feedback in the 2021 CSM dean search was “unusable”, a decision which effectively silenced the voice of all who provided thoughtful and relevant written comments. The third was a FOIA of FOIAs, which was an attempt to gather information about the conduct of the FOIA office in past requests. The FOIA is a powerful resource, and one that JMU AAUP will continue to use.

Please reach out to us at if you want to learn more, or would like us to consider submitting a request that you think would benefit transparency, equity, accountability, or shared governance at JMU.

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