Did the head of the counseling center violate her ethics as a psychologist?
The fallout the University of Oregon suffered after an alleged 2014 rape involving three basketball players isn’t over.
The Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners issued a letter of reprimand and fined Shelly Kerr, director of the University Testing and Counseling Center, $2,500, assigning her to take a six-hour course on “professional ethics” for her actions during the events surrounding the 2014 case.
Following the alleged rape in March 2014, the student (Jane Doe) began counseling sessions at the University Testing and Counseling Center, which Kerr is still directing.
The Board investigated Kerr to determine whether she violated the ethics of her position as a psychologist on two counts. The Board asked whether she failed to clarify a conflict of interest when the university requested confidential medical records from her office and if she failed to take steps to protect the information requested.
The university is standing behind Kerr, according to a statement made last month by Tobin Klinger, senior director of public affairs and communications, to the AP saying, “the university has been supporting of Shelly Kerr and that support remains strong.”
What that support entails is unclear; Klinger said it was “general support, just that we are supportive of Shelly as she continues to move forward.”
The notice for disciplinary action was issued last September. The case was heard in May with the fine handed down a month later.
The director of OBPE Charles Hill attached the press release in an email but gave no comment on the case.
Investigator Karen Berry attached the same release and said in an email that all investigations are confidential.
The university settled the lawsuit brought by two former counseling center employees just days before Kerr’s fine was issued. Those employees were concerned with Kerr’s actions when an email sent on behalf of Associate General Counsel for the university, Sam Hill, requested the confidential records of Jane Doe after mediation failed in December 2014.
The Board did not address whether the university’s request for the records was improper, but did note there was not enough evidence to clearly determine if there were any legal violations. However, their interest was with how Kerr responded and determining whether her response was appropriate.
From a university standpoint, Kerr’s activity as a university employee won’t be questioned again after the emergency policy concerning confidential records presented in October last year was ratified in April by University President Michael Schill.
Section two of the policy expressly gives power to the university to subpoena confidential files “in response to an actual or anticipated lawsuit.” This was the action that placed Kerr in a position to choose between her ethical duties as a psychologist and her duties as an employee of the university, acting in accordance with UO’s General Counsel.
The potential sanctions that Kerr faced were far greater than what was handed down. Originally, a fine of $5,000 was proposed and a suspension of her license for at least a year or probation were alternatives to her letter of reprimand. Kerr was unavailable for comment and it is unclear whether she will appeal.
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