Most of the time, new technologies don’t raise too many new questions – often they are simply a change in format or something that doesn’t require too much philosophical discussion. But every now and then something interesting comes up. As I was talking with my friend and colleague Barb Ellich at Briercrest College & Seminary, the topic of electronic records raised some questions for us that we’d like you to help with. Consider this a discussion paper that we’d like you to post a comment on.
Both of our schools (Briercrest and Trinity) scan all documents that go into student files, and we turn them into electronic records and store them electronically. We do this for numerous reasons, such as to reduce physical space needs, to increase speed of retrieval, to make it easier to share the documents with other departments as appropriate, etc. The question that this brings up is what to do with the paper documents once we’ve scanned them. Should we give or return them to the student? Should we destroy them? Should we store them? And this raised other questions: who is the owner of the document; and, who is the owner of the student file?
Let me start with these last two questions because I think the answer to them will help us with the others. Who owns the document and the student file?
At TWU, we have a policy on student records that says that once a document is submitted to us, it become the property of the University. That’s an important policy and we use it to claim ownership of the documents. We need to claim ownership because we need to retain the documents for our use at various times throughout students’ academic careers. However, most provinces have privacy legislation which says that students have a right to the contents of their file and can request access to those records. This indicates that the student has some claim to ownership of the documents in the file – or at least enough to give the right to access.
How does your institution see this question? How would you answer? Who is the owner of the documents and file? Post a comment and let’s get the discussion going!
The othe questions I raised above will be in a follow-up blog post, and will take into account your comments.