About Saint Mary's

FAQs

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP)

Our Responsibility as Faculty and Staff

All University faculty and staff have responsibilities in regard to FOIPOP compliance. Senior management are responsible to ensure that the University's approach to information ownership, control, use and disposal complies with FOIPOP. Deans, Chairs, Directors and Managers are responsible for ensuring that information is accessible and personal privacy is protected. Faculty and staff have responsibility to protect personal information.

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act can be found at http://nslegislature.ca/legc/statutes/freedom%20of%20information%20and%20protection%20of%20privacy.pdf    

1. Are all records at the University covered by the FOIPOP legislation?

Yes, all records in the custody and control of the University regardless of media or subject or location are covered by the Act. These include records in the offices of University employees. It does not include records that do not relate to University business or matters.

To ensure that University-wide issues concerning records collection, creation, use, and disposal are dealt with in a systematic fashion, the University has created a records management unit within the University Archives.

2. Can a faculty member ask a student for personal information?

Yes. A faculty member is permitted to ask a student for personal information if s/he can demonstrate that the information relates directly to and is necessary for an operating program or activity of the course or program. S/he would also have to inform the student of the purpose for which the information is required.

The student may refuse to provide the information and a faculty member cannot compel the student to provide the information, only advise them of the consequence of not providing the requested information.

3. What exactly is personal information?

Personal information is defined as any recorded information about an identifiable individual, including but not restricted to:

  • the individual's name, home or business address or home or business telephone number,
  • the individual's race, national or ethnic origin, colour or religious or political beliefs or associations,
  • the individual's age, sex, sexual orientationmarital status or family status,
  • an identifying number, symbol or other particular assigned to the individual,
  • the individual's fingerprints, blood-type, or inheritable characteristics,
  • information about the individual's health, and health care history, including information about a physical or mental disability,
  • information about the individual's educational, financial, employment, or criminal history,
  • anyone else's opinions about the individual and,
  • the individual's personal views or opinions, except if they are about someone else.

4. Can students' grades be publicly posted?

No, if there is the possibility that a student could be identified. Grade distribution can be done in a number of ways other than actually posting the grade in a public place. For example, distributing grades in class, asking students to stop by during office hours, or leaving sealed, identified envelopes with Departmental Secretaries for students to pick up at their convenience.  If a faculty member wishes to post grades using a students A number they must advise the students that this will be done and provide an alternative if a student objects.

5. Can students read their essays aloud in class?

Yes. The FOIPOP Act does not prevent students from reading their essays aloud in class.

6. How can marked tests, examinations, lab reports, and essays be distributed to students? Can they be left on a table in the hallway or in the classroom so that students can retrieve them on their own? Do they need to be returned in sealed envelopes?

The FOIPOP Act states that the University must protect personal information by making reasonable security arrangements against such risks as unauthorized access, collection, use, disclosure, or destruction. As a result, the practice of placing graded course work in a public place for pickup is not acceptable unless the student has consented in advanced to this method of distribution. Examinations and assignments should be returned directly to the students. Students should not be allowed to handle academic work other than their own.

Teaching or research assistants are considered employees under the FOIPOP Act and as such are granted access to any personal information required to perform their duties. The Act does not prevent this group of students from collecting, marking, or distributing student work as assigned by faculty.  As with all employees, these students have a responsibility to protect personal information.

7. How long are instructors required to keep paper, assignments, and examinations that students have not picked up?

Papers, assignments, and mid-term tests/examinations are returned to students through the term. They are either returned directly to the student or the student has notified where and when such work can be retrieved. This term work is considered to be the property of the student and the student is ultimately responsible for its long-term retention. Nevertheless, the University has the responsibility to ensure that the student has had ample opportunity to retrieve term work and to ensure that the work is secure until retrieved. Instructors should, therefore, retain, papers, assignments, and mid-term tests that have not been picked up by students for a reasonable length of time - suggestion: three months during the regular academic year or over the summer break, if left at the end of the winter term. Final examinations should be kept for at least one year. Students should be informed about the retention policy which individual faculty members have developed for work handed in to them.

8. If it is recommended that final examinations have to be retained for one year after they are written, can students appeal their final grades up to one year after the examination is written?

No. The FOIPOP requirement to retain final examinations for one year is intended to allow an individual to examine this record and review the information used to make a decision about him or her. It does not affect the University's policy and appeal of grades which is clearly delineated in Academic Regulation 11.

9. Can faculty and staff have open access via computer or hard copy to student information?

No. The fact that access to student information is possible does not mean that all faculty and staff members should have access to all student information. Faculty and staff should only have access to information that they require to perform their stated duties as an employee of the University. For example, staff may access information for the purposes of academic planning, student advising, and other legitimate academic reasons which are deemed to be in the best interest of the student and the academic programmes of the University.

10. Is the university obliged, under FOIPOP, to release test or examination questions?

No. Questions to be used on an examination or a test are exempt from the FOIPOP Act. The University may also refuse to disclose details of specific tests or examinations if the disclosure could reasonably be expected to prejudice the use or results. The University may release test or examination questions if there is no intention to use or re-use them in the future.

11. Professors often retain files on graduate students they have supervised. Can a student request to see the contents of the file?

Yes. The FOIPOP Act allows individuals, subject to limited and specific exemptions, a right of access to personal information about themselves that is held by the University.

12. Must the supervisor retain the student file for a specific period of time?

Yes. If the supervisor used the student's personal information to make a decision that directly affects the student, the supervisor should retain that information for a period of one year.

If you have questions about FOIPOP and how it applies to you or if you would like clarification on the above please contact:

Marie DeYoung, FOIPOP Administrator, University Librarian

902-420-5532 or marie.deyoung@smu.ca

October, 2015