The University of Oregon community regards the privacy of student records as a central and serious part of its academic mission. While privacy issues are governed by both state and federal law, the University's interest in privacy goes far beyond its commitment to comply with law. Privacy is an integral part of the academic freedom that is at the heart of the function of the modern university. Students, faculty and staff should be aware that the University supports their freedom to inquire, discuss and experiment with ideas without fear of improper government intrusion or public exposure. Though we are supported by taxpayer funds, our mission, as set out by our legal charter, centers around our autonomy as an academic institution governed by academic norms; and we conceive that mission as including educating the larger community in the importance of academic freedom.
The current state of crisis has given rise to legislative and administrative initiatives that may threaten some aspects of educational privacy. As a community, therefore, the university expresses its concern that, even during times of emergency, cooperation with law enforcement and political oversight of the university, while essential in a free society, should not go beyond the legitimate needs of outside bodies requesting information about university students, faculty and personnel. Members of the faculty and the staff, in particular, should be aware that non-disclosure of student information in response to outside inquiry by law enforcement or investigative agencies is the norm on this campus, and that the university will support all its members in their efforts to ensure that any request for records or information is submitted with proper authority and is no broader than is required by applicable law. Faculty and staff confronted with outside demands for information by law enforcement or investigative agencies should be aware that the University and its general counsel, in particular, are available to them and that our expectation is that they will exercise their right to consult with the general counsel's office before complying with any request for information.
Faculty and staff should in no case make any disclosure that has not been authorized by proper university authority after examination of the justification for the demand. As head of the University, the president has made a commitment that he and his office will be involved with the general counsel's office in formulating policies governing such requests and, to the extent permitted by law, in evaluating individual requests.
The community recognizes further that requests for information by outside
agencies can raise difficult questions of conscience for those who have
custody of confidential records. In no case will a specific member of the
staff be required personally by the university to provide information in
response to such inquiries when such personal compliance is not required
by law. Compliance with information requests will be overseen by the office
of the general counsel in accordance both with the law and with the norms
of academic freedom, and the university will make every effort to provide
information and support to the staff on the proper scope of their duties
in this regard.
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