UO denies Oregonian’s report on counseling center records policy, privacy concerns
The University of Oregon Thursday denied a report in The Oregonian claiming administrators “significantly weakened” confidentiality safeguards for students seeking help from the UO’s Counseling and Testing Center.
UO spokesperson Julie Brown said that no changes have been made to the school’s policies in handling students’ health and wellness records, and that information was added to the website for clarity.
On Wednesday, The Oregonian reported that UCTC Director Shelly Kerr, working with Assistant Director Joseph DeWitz and the UO’s legal department, had revised the confidentiality policy in ways that “contradict” Provost Frances Bronet’s promises in a March 20 memo to students that their records would remain confidential except under extraordinary circumstances.
Brown said this is untrue.
“It is not accurate that the article suggests that the provost’s message was out of alignment with the information within the Counseling and Testing Center. They were not changing policies in the interim, what they were attempting to do is clarify the website of existing practices.”
The Oregonian reported that one of the changes allows records to be released without a written statement from the student – something that the former policy banned.
Brown said that in legal exceptions the university has always been allowed to obtain a student’s records without written consent, and the updated information on the website simply clarifies that practice.
The UO has received criticism for its handling of records in a recent sexual assault case involving the alleged rape of a student by three basketball players that occurred last spring. In this case, the university obtained the survivor’s counseling records without a written statement.
Interim general counsel Doug Park said later that he would have acted differently in requesting the student’s counseling records.
In an email obtained by The Oregonian, Kerr said that she worked with UO’s attorneys to update the information, because she wants the information on the website to be as transparent as possible. Brown said that it is a normal practice to work with the general counsel when updating information such as this.
The Oregonian also reported that no other staff members in the counseling center were a part of the conversation to change the policies. Brown didn’t have a comment on this subject.
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