Freedom of Information Act Policy

SLT 10.3

  1. Policy Statement
  2. Procedures

Policy Statement

Section 1 of the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA” or “the statute”) provides, "It is the public policy of this state that all persons, except those persons incarcerated in state or local correctional facilities, are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and public employees, consistent with this act. The people shall be informed so that they may fully participate in the democratic process.”(1) To that end, all people, excluding prisoners, are allowed to file FOIA requests with a Grand Valley State University (the “University”). A requester must simply file a request in writing with the University’s FOIA Coordinator, and the University will begin processing his or her request.(2) Each request must include the requesting person’s complete name, address (in compliance with United States Postal Service addressing standards), and either a telephone number or email address.

The University, in its initial response, will do one of the following within the timeframe permitted by the statute: grant the request, partially grant the request, deny the request, inform the requester that additional time is needed, require a fee deposit prior to further processing, or inform the requester that the requested record has not been sufficiently described.

If a request is denied or partially denied, the University will explain why the documents have not been released and inform the requester of his or her challenge and appeal options.

A fee deposit will be required when processing a request that will require significant University employee time and resources. The University will notify the requester of the estimated cost and provide a non-binding, best efforts estimate of the time it will take to complete the processing of the request. It is possible that after further processing of the request, the University will determine that the cost of processing the request is significantly less or greater than the estimated cost. If that is the case, the University will notify the requester to allow the requester to determine whether and how they want to proceed with the request.

After the University receives a required deposit, it will make every effort to provide the requested documents within the time estimate provided. Requesters must understand, however, that at any given time, the University is processing multiple requests and cannot devote all of its time to one particular request.

A requester who feels wrongly denied of responsive documents may appeal to the Head of the Public Body, which for the purposes of these Procedures and Guidelines is the General Counsel, or file a civil action. If a requester believes that the University has required a fee that exceeds the amount permitted under the Procedures and Guidelines, they may file a civil action. Requesters are also always free to contact the FOIA Coordinator at 616-331-2067 or [email protected] with any questions about the processing of their requests. Detailed Procedures and Guidelines follow. 


1. How to submit a FOIA request to the University

a. A FOIA request must be submitted in writing to the FOIA Coordinator in the Office of General Counsel. The request may be transmitted in hard copy, by email, or by facsimile.

b. The University’s FOIA Coordinator address 4068 James H. Zumberge Hall, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI 49401. The email address is [email protected]. The fax number is (616) 331-3950.

c. A request should describe the record(s) sought sufficiently to enable the University to find the record(s) and should provide the requester’s contact information.

d. Requests should state that they are submitted pursuant to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.

e. Requests received electronically are deemed received the next business day. A business day is defined as Monday through Friday, exclusive of holidays and institutional closure days.

f. If a request is delivered to the FOIA Coordinator’s junk mail folder, the request will be deemed received one business day after the FOIA Coordinator becomes aware of the request. The FOIA Coordinator will check the junk mail folder at least once per week.

2. Responses to FOIA requests to the University

a. The University will respond to a FOIA request within five (5) business days of the FOIA Coordinator receiving the request.

b. A response will consist of one or more of the following:

i. A granting of the request

ii. A partial granting of the request, and a partial denial because some or a portion of the records do not exist, are not in the possession of the University, and/or are exempt from disclosure

iii. A complete denial of the request because all of the records do not exist, are not in the possession of the University, and/or are exempt from disclosure

iv. A notice that more time is needed to process the request

1. If more time is needed, the University will send out a follow up response within 10 business days of the initial response.

v. A notice that a fee deposit is required prior to further processing

1. If a fee deposit is required, the University will include in its response a non-binding, best efforts estimate regarding the time it will take to provide the records to the requester.

vi. A notice that the record(s) sought has (have) not been sufficiently described to enable the University to locate the record(s). 

c. The response will state the FOIA exemptions under which any information and/or documents are withheld, if applicable.

d. If any part of a request for records is denied for any reason, the response will set forth the procedures for appealing the denial. 

3. Deposit Requirements

a. A fee deposit will be required when the processing of a request will result in fees equal to or greater than $50.00.

b. The required deposit will equal up to 50% of the estimated cost of fulfilling the request as calculated at the time of the initial response.

c. If the University requires a deposit, it will not process the FOIA request further until the deposit is paid.

d. If a deposit is not received by the FOIA Coordinator within 45 days of the initial notice, the request will be considered withdrawn. Notice of a deposit requirement is considered received three days after it is sent, regardless of the means of transmission.

e. If, after receipt of the deposit and further processing of the request, the University learns that the processing costs will be significantly different from the estimated costs, the University will so notify the requester. Where the actual effort to search for, review and separate exempt material significantly exceeds the original estimate, the University will notify the requester. The requester may choose to receive a revised fee deposit notice, or limit his/her original request to those records, which may be processed within the time stated in the original fee estimate.

f. A person who makes a FOIA request for which a deposit is required may withdraw that FOIA request without charge instead of paying the required deposit. Failure to pay the deposit will be deemed a withdrawal of the FOIA request.

g. The University will treat multiple concurrent FOIA requests on the same topic(s) and/or regarding the same record keeper(s) and from the same person as one FOIA request for purposes of determining whether the fee is below $50.00.

h. Where a requester who has not paid the final fee for the processing of an earlier request files a new FOIA request, the University may require a deposit of all (100%) of the estimated fees for processing the subsequent request prior to processing the subsequent request.

4. Calculation and Payment of Fees

a. Fees are calculated by adding together the following costs:

i. The labor costs for searching for, locating, and examining responsive records

ii. The labor costs for review, separation, and deletion of exempt information from non-exempt information

iii. The cost of non-paper physical media, if used

iv. The cost per copy of paper copies, not to exceed $.05/page for standard 8 ½ x 11 inch paper v. The labor costs directly associated with duplication or publication, which may include copying to non-paper media

vi. The cost of mailing

b. Final fees for responding to a FOIA request will be billed when the University responds to the FOIA request. A detailed FOIA fee itemization form will be provided by the University with the response. The amount invoiced must be paid within ninety (90) days. The University reserves the right to require payment in full of all fees incurred in processing a FOIA request before delivering the final, responsive documents.

c. The University’s decision to deny access to public records sought by a FOIA request because those records are, in whole or in part, exempt from disclosure does not excuse the person who files that FOIA request from payment of fees for the work undertaken by the University in response to that request.

d. The University may waive or reduce the fees it is authorized to charge if it determines that a waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest because responding to the FOIA request can be considered as primarily benefiting the general public. 

e. Fee reductions or waivers are required in certain instances involving proven indigence or non-profit organizations. The University will apply these reductions or waivers in accordance with the statute. 

5. Procedures for Challenge and Appeal

a. If the University denies a request in whole or in part, the requester may:

i. Submit an appeal to the Head of the Public Body, which for the purpose of these Procedures and Guidelines is the Vice President and General Counsel, in writing, via the FOIA Coordinator, using the contact information listed in Item 1, above. The appeal must specifically use the word “appeal” and identify the reason(s) the requester seeks reversal of the denial. The Head of the Public Body must respond to the appeal within ten (10) business days by doing one of the following:

1. Reversing the FOIA Coordinator’s decision

2. Upholding the FOIA Coordinator’s decision

3. Reversing in part and upholding in part the FOIA Coordinator’s decision

4. Issuing a notice of extension for not more than ten (10) additional business days.

ii. Commence a civil action in the Court of Claims within one hundred eighty (180) days after the University’s final determination to deny a request.

b. If a requester believes that the University has required payment of a fee that exceeds the amount permitted under these Procedures and Guidelines, they may commence an action in the Court of Claims for a fee reduction within forty five (45) days after receiving the notice of the required fee.

c. If a requester has questions regarding any FOIA response, including estimated fees or actual fees assessed, the requester should not hesitate to contact the FOIA Coordinator by email or telephone 616-331-2067. 

(1) M.C.L.A. 15.231.

(2) Verbal requests for information are not FOIA requests for purposes of these Procedures and Guidelines. If a verbal request for information is received by a University employee who knows that the information is available on the University’s website, the employee, where practicable, will inform the requester about the University’s website address

(3) The University has determined, consistent with FOIA, that failure to charge fees in situations where the fees would be equal to or greater than $50.00 would result in unreasonably high costs to the University.

(4) A copy of the standard form that the University uses for fee itemization, with additional explanatory information, is attached to these Procedures and Guidelines.

(5) Labor costs will be estimated and charged in increments of 15 minutes or more, with all partial time increments rounded down. The labor is charged at the hourly rate of the lowest paid University employee capable of doing the work, plus fringe benefits, if applicable. If it is not possible for the work to be done by a University employee, the University will contract the work out and charge per the provisions of the statute.