First it was Interim President Scott Coltrane’s decision to tell Interim UO General Counsel Doug Park to drop the counterclaim by UO and Coach Dana Altman against the survivor of the alleged basketball gang rape.
Now Interim Provost Frances Bronet has told the GC’s office to return the student’s confidential counseling records, which University Counseling and Testing Director Shelly Kerr had turned over on Doug Park’s request. Bronet has also issued a strong guarantee that the confidentiality of UO student counseling records will not be broken again.
Josephine Woolington has more on the national implications of Kerr’s decision to turn over the records to Park, and Bronet’s reversal of it, in the RG here.
March 20, 2015
TO: Campus Community
FROM: Provost Frances Bronet
RE: UO’s Commitment to Confidentiality of Student Counseling Records
Last December, the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) obtained copies of therapy records maintained by the University Counseling and Testing Center (UCTC) in response to a litigation hold sent by a student’s attorney. OGC then scanned the records electronically to preserve and secure them. No one at the OGC has reviewed the records. Subsequently, national debate has centered on how access to these records could impact students seeking counseling on university campuses. In response to these concerns, I am affirming that University of Oregon students will have the same level of strong confidentiality that they have in private, off-campus therapy.
In order to emphasize the university’s commitment to the confidentiality of students’ records I am announcing the following actions:
- OGC has returned all records at issue so that they may be preserved and secured by the UCTC.
- I am instructing all UO employees that they must rigorously respect the confidentiality obligations of therapists in UO clinics and counseling centers.
- The university promises each student who comes to UO clinics and counseling centers that, consistent with law and ethics codes, in the future no records will be accessed by anyone not involved in their care, unless:
- the student signs a written release,
- a court orders release,
- the therapist needs to coordinate treatment with others,
- the therapist needs to prevent harm to the student or others,
- the therapist needs to provide anonymous, aggregate information to the Director of Affirmative Action to compile statistics regarding sexual assaults.
I will form a committee made up of licensed therapists, faculty, General Counsel, and staff to propose new or clarified policies on how the confidentiality of medical and psychological records for any university departments that handle protected health information will be maintained and protected, and when records may be released. The committee will share a draft of these policies with the UO community in April 2015.
I am grateful for the advice and energy many members of our community have brought and continue to bring to this vital issue, and to our many members of the UCTC for their hard work, dedication, and care for our students.
I urge UO students to use our counseling and mental health services without fear that their counseling records will be disclosed to other parties or UO departments. In addition to the UCTC, I want students to know that other confidential support services are available in the following offices:
- the Student Health Center: 541-346-2770, http://healthcenter.uoregon.edu;
- the UO Psychology Clinic: 541.346.4954, http://psychology.uoregon.edu/psychology-clinic;
- the University Ombudsperson: 541-346-6400, http://ombuds.uoregon.edu;
- the Crisis Intervention and Sexual Violence Support Services 541-346-8194 or 541-346-6796.
Students can call a 24-hour hotline at 541 346-SAFE to speak with a confidential counselor who can explain options and connect students with resources. They can also access such confidential services at the following website: safe.uoregon.edu.
I will resend this message to all students at the start of spring term.
Acting Senior Vice President and Provost