COUNCIL From the Communications Committee

Revised Proposal on Student Electronic Privacy

The text below supersedes that published in Almanac April 16, 1996, as the proposal before the University Council Wednesday. It will be presented by the 1996-97 chair, Dr. Martin Pring, along with the Draft Policy on Privacy of Electronic Information published in Almanac March 19, 1996.

For two year-end reports on the same agenda (those of the Bookstore Committee and the Committee on Safety and Security) please the reports in this issue. Ed.

Proposed new policy, to be included as section II.F.9 in Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators and in The Pennbook: Resources, Policies and Procedures Handbook (for students):

9. Policy on Student Privacy in University Residences

The University fulfills multiple roles in its relationship with students who live in campus residences. Two of these roles bear upon the privacy of such students. As the landlord of a rented property the University properly reserves the right to take necessary steps to maintain the physical structure and utility systems of these buildings and to ensure their orderly operation. As a community the University has policies and regulations and disciplinary systems for enforcing them. In both of these roles University employees may have cause to enter a student's room(s). This policy defines the several circumstances under which this is permissible and the obligations of the University to respect student privacy.

Entry for Maintenance and Operational Purposes
The occupancy agreement signed by students who rent dormitory rooms from the University defines its rights as landlord. University employees and contractors may enter a student's room(s) when such entry is reasonable and necessary for purposes of maintenance and operation, or in a known or suspected emergency. Entries for maintenance and operational purposes will be conducted with scrupulous respect for the privacy and property of the occupant, by person(s) appropriate for the performance or assessment of the required maintenance, accompanied when necessary by a Department of Residential Living employee.

Routine Health and Safety Inspections
From time to time the Department of Residential Living will enter all rooms in a residence or section thereof for the purposes of eliminating conditions that are actually or potentially unhealthful or otherwise hazardous. Examples of such conditions include the presence of dangerous articles or prohibited appliances. Such inspections will always be carried out by two persons and will be conducted with scrupulous respect for the privacy and property of the occupants.

Entry for Disciplinary Purposes
When reasonable cause to suspect student wrongdoing exists, University employees may enter a student's room(s) to seek evidence. Except in cases of emergency or other extreme urgency such entry must be approved in advance by the Vice Provost for University Life or designate, and carried out by at least two University employees, both of whom must be present throughout.

Furthermore the Vice Provost for University Life:

a) Will inform the Chair of the Residential Advisory Board (or in the case of a graduate or professional student, the Chair of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly) and the Faculty Master (or senior faculty resident) of the residence, if available, prior to the search being undertaken, and seek their opinion.
b) Will report the completion of the search and the justification for that search as soon as practicable after the event to the Chair and officers of the relevant group, and the Faculty Master (or senior faculty resident) of the residence, if there is one.

Such a search will be performed by persons whose duties include responsibility for the maintenance of student discipline. They may examine, copy and/or remove any relevant evidence that they find. However, when any materials are removed, a record, as complete as practicable, of them will be established and maintained. Copies of this record will be given to the Vice Provost for University Life and to the student. The search will be carried out with due regard for the privacy and property of the occupant. Every reasonable effort will be made to confine it to areas, papers and objects that seem likely to yield relevant evidence.


Volume 43 Number 5
September 24, 1996

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