Article by Pulitzer Prize-winning Oregonian journalist Rich Read, here. The State Legislature is doing its best to clean up the mess created by the UO General Counsel’s office and Counseling Center Director Shelly Kerr when she gave Jane Doe’s counseling reports to the GC:
A lawmaker who led the Oregon Senate to a unanimous vote better protecting sexual-assault victims said Thursday she’s not done making the University of Oregon and other institutions boost patient confidentiality.
Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, said she’d work next session to strengthen privacy provisions at institutions such as UO, where the campus counseling center recently weakened its confidentiality guarantees without public notice. Gelser amended the bill before passage Wednesday to tighten requirements in response to an April 8 story by The Oregonian/OregonLive, which reported that the center had quietly diluted privacy safeguards.
Students across the nation have grown leery of campus counseling clinics after the UO center gave lawyers confidential therapy records of a student who was allegedly gang-raped March 9, 2014, by three university basketball players. The unidentified woman has sued the university and men’s basketball coach Dana Altman. The three players were never criminally charged.
There’s still no word on what Doug Park’s office has done to ensure the confidentiality of their electronic copies of the counseling records. I suggest returning them to Jane Doe’s lawyer on a “zip drive”.
Kerr told the Oregonian that she decides on the confidentiality of student records on the basis of “public relations” and the “political landscape”, and then takes the fall for Frances Bronet, blaming her mistakes on her own excessive focus on the students. Really.
“We were on trains on seemingly parallel tracks that suddenly managed to crash into each other,” Kerr said. “That’s my fault.”
“I was focused on the students, and had I looked at the political and PR landscape, I probably would have paused and asked some additional questions,” Kerr said.
Kerr also said that despite its title, the new statement is “not really a policy.” Instead it’s a description of the clinic’s practice, she said.
Does Kerr, who is in charge of a center training graduate students at UO and interns from Ph.D. programs at other universities who come for training, hold special seminars to help future psychologists learn how to integrate “public relations” into their counseling duties? Do GTFs at the University of Oregon receive an education that is unavailable at other universities, on how the handling of the confidential records of patients can be used to respond to the “political landscape” of the institution the future psychologists will be working for?
A search of the UO course catalog has failed to turn up any seminar at the University Counseling and Testing Center titled “Public Relations for Shrinks” or “Patient Records and Politics.” Perhaps a joint degree between the Department of Political Science and the Counseling Center could be offered — Politics and Psychology.