President answers questions about records, sets campus town halls

Interim President Scott Coltrane told the University Senate at its Jan. 28 meeting that the university continues to investigate the release of electronic presidential documents that had not gone through proper archival processing procedures.

The provost announced in a memo to campus that the faculty member who received the documents had now returned them to the university.

Coltrane said that the university sought the return of the documents because they contain sensitive. private information from people who email the president for help, counsel, or as a place of last resort.

“We have a moral and legal obligation to our students, faculty, staff and others who interact with the Office of the President to safeguard the private and personal information that is shared with the president," Coltrane said.

Dean of the Libraries Adriene Lim explained that the libraries manage temporary and permanent records and that these documents are processed under both public records and library best practices based on their code of ethics.

“I believe in openness and transparency, as many of you do, but not at the expense of the privacy and confidentiality of ordinary citizens,” Lim said.

Lim said that if there is an information breach, they are ethically bound to get the information back to protect people’s privacy. She also says they are obliged to investigate why it happened to ensure it doesn’t happen again. 

“My library colleagues and I are committed to strengthening library policies," she said.

Lim also posted a statement outlining the issue on the UO Libraries website. Read the message here.

Following the remarks, economics professor Bill Harbaugh said, “Just to make it obvious, I am the person who obtained these presidential archives from the university library.”

The university has said it will not name any people involved in the document release incident because it is a personnel matter.

When a senator asked about one legal document that had been posted on Harbaugh’s blog that related to Senate-administration relations, Coltrane reaffirmed his strong commitment to shared governance, calling it a key tenant of the University of Oregon.

The president also talked about two other topics: addressing sexual assault and policies.

Coltrane announced two town hall discussions on recommendations the university has received to improve how the UO prevents and addresses sexual violence. They are scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 24, at noon at the EMU Ballroom and Monday, March 2, at 4 p.m. at the Ford Alumni Center Ballroom.

“The goal for the winter term and into spring is to seek input so we can forge comprehensive plans on which initiatives we do and in what order to reform our processes,” Coltrane said.

Professor Jennifer Freyd expressed concern about the AAU climate survey that the UO has agreed to participate in. Coltrane said he reserved the right not to conduct the survey, if an advisory committee he has appointed counsels him that the survey is scientifically unsound.

The Senate also moved ahead on its portion of a process to review academic policies that the university inherited when it transitioned governance.

The president’s office, working with the Senate and the UO Board of Trustees, has drafted a proposed new Policy on University Policies.

Senate President Rob Kyr encouraged people to review the draft and provide input for the next two weeks. The Senate will vote on the policy language on Feb. 11.

—By Jennifer Winters, Public Affairs Communications