Public Information

Because UCI is a public university, much of what we do is subject to the taxpayers' scrutiny. Many documents, particularly financial documents, are public records, open to inspection by any member of the public during all business hours. Such information disclosure is regulated by the California Public Records Act. At the same time, state and federal laws protect certain personal records and documents.

It's rare for a member of the general public to stroll through the building asking for public records. It's not rare for the press, however, who act on behalf of the public. Reporters also have at their disposal the federal Freedom of Information Act, and it's not unusual for them to file "FOIs" to gain access to disputed records. It's wise for you to have a general idea of what's public and what's not and how to find out which is which.

Be particularly aware that information regarding litigation or personnel actions generally is not public. Disclosure of such information can and will, as they say, be used against you.

For university employees, such information as name, date of hire, title, salary, office address and phone number and job description all are public. Performance evaluations are examples of personal information that cannot be released without your permission.

Contracts and grants are public, including protocols approved by animal and human subjects committees.

Preliminary drafts, notes or memoranda that are not retained by the university in the ordinary course of business are exempt from disclosure requirements. In other words, working drafts of, for example, the long-range development plan, would not be public documents. However, if you keep internal memos regarding office operations or other subjects in your files, they may be subject to release if a reporter requested them.

To determine the status of information, you may need to contact the campus information practices coordinator or ombudsman. A booklet, Private and Confidential: What You Should Know About Privacy of and Access to Information, is available; and complete regulations are published in the campus Policies & Procedures. University counsel will be consulted in serious and/or unusual situations.