FOIP FAQs - Faculty/Instructors

Can student grades be posted using student numbers as identifiers?

Grade lists cannot be posted unless the Institute can guarantee anonymity. Any number of methods can be used to do this, ensuring that only individual students will be able to find their grades. If student numbers are used, they should be listed randomly. If a class were so small that grade holders could be easily identified despite any process to conceal identities, then grades should not be posted.

Can the Institute disclose the hometowns of its graduates to the media?

No. The Institute can disclose names of graduates to the media. Under section 40(1) and 17(2)(j), the disclosure of this information would not be considered an unreasonable invasion of the graduates' personal privacy. However, disclosing the names of their hometowns would require the graduates' consent. Consent for publication can be obtained at the time students apply for graduation.

Can the Registrar release a student’s address/phone number to a faculty member who is teaching the student or to a Counsellor at the same Institute?

This information would only be supplied on a "need to know" basis. Section 40(1)(h) allows for disclosure to a faculty member if the information is necessary for the performance of his or her duties. The onus is on the faculty member to show why this information is necessary and a notation about the disclosure should be placed on the student's file.

Can an employee (faculty member) of the Institute ask for personal information about the student?

Yes, but only in accordance with Section 33(c) and 34(2) of the Act. The faculty member would have to show that the information relates directly to and is necessary for an operating program or activity of the Institute. He or she would also have to inform the student of this purpose and the use to which the information was going to be put. The faculty member should discuss this with the FOIP Coordinator prior to asking for the personal information, as it may be necessary to keep a record of the purpose and use of the information.

Do the personal notes on an examination paper belong to the student who fills in the spaces between questions with their answers?

Yes. Personal information includes an individual's personal views or opinions, except if they are about someone else. [Section 1(n)(ix)] If the examination paper is going to be used again in the near future and the Institute can document this fact, then the questions may be severed from the record before releasing the personal information to the student. [Section 4(1)(g) and Section 26]

Can students, in a FOIP request, access and receive copies of their own previously completed examination papers?

Yes. The answers to examination questions are a part of the student's educational history and are personal information. [Section 1(n)(vii)] However, if the examination paper is going to be used again in the near future and the Institute can document this fact, then the questions may be severed from the record before releasing the answers to the student. [Section 4(1)(g) and Section 26]

Can personal notes made during an interview with a student/staff member be withheld from a FOIP request?

Any information about a student or staff member is that person's personal information and, therefore, accessible under the Act[Section 1(n)viii) and 6(1)] This would not apply if the notes contained the interviewed person's opinions about a third party. [Section 1(n)(ix)] There may be occasions when information could be withheld if it would be harmful to someone's health or safety, harmful to law enforcement, or could be construed as advice to another official in the Institute. Because this could be a complex decision, the advice of the FOIP Coordinator should always be sought.

Are the anecdotal notes made by faculty members about students in a practicum portion of a program considered personal information?

Yes. Anecdotal notes and opinions about a person are that person's own personal information. [Section 1(n)(viii) and 6(1)] There may be occasions when information could be withheld if it would be harmful to someone's health or safety, harmful to law enforcement, or could be construed as advice to an official in the Institute. Because this could be a complex decision, the advice of the FOIP Coordinator should always be sought.

Can Faculty members have access, via computer or hard copy, to student information?

Staff should only be accessing student information if they have a need to use that information as a part of their responsibilities. Section 40(1)(h) permits this type of disclosure. However, the fact that access to student information is available does not condone unauthorized access to that information. Also, staff needs to ensure that there is an audit trail to follow regarding the disclosure, by way of a notation made on the student's file.

Is it permissible to post in the halls of the Institute the student names and numbers of those who are "eligible to graduate" to ensure that students know whether or not they have successfully completed or are registered in all the courses required for graduation?

No. Lists cannot be posted without the Institute being able to guarantee anonymity, unless students have previously consented to this use or disclosure

Is an Institute obliged, in a FOIP request, to release exam questions and answers? If so, when and under what circumstances?

Yes. An Institute must release questions unless it can show that they are going to be used on an examination or test in the near future. [Section 4(1)(g)] It may also refuse to disclose details of specific tests to be given if disclosure could reasonable be expected to prejudice the use or results of particular tests. [Section 26]

If written final exams have to be retained for one year after they are written, can students appeal their final grades up to one year after the exam is written?

No. The requirement to retain final exams for a period of one year is to allow an individual to examine this record and see the information used to make a decision about him or her. It does not affect the Institute's policy on appeal of grades.

What responsibility does the Institute have to ensure that the student has actually signed consent to release personal information?

Generally, the Institute will assume the consent is valid. It should ask for a copy of the consent statement and identification of the person holding the consent, and should keep these on file with a notation of disclosure. If there is any reason to suspect that the consent my not be valid, the student should be contacted to confirm consent.

Can laboratory reports be left in a lab for the students to pick up on their own?

No. The laboratory reports, like any other test or report are a part of a student's educational history and are his or her own personal information. If they are to be left for pick up, they would have to be in sealed envelopes addressed to the student and marked "Personal and confidential". This action is reasonable protection against unauthorized disclosure of the information.

Is it permissible to leave reports containing students grades on an unattended desk?

No. This would not meet the requirement to protect personal information by making reasonable security arrangements against unauthorized access or disclosure of that information. [Section 38] Records which contain personal information should always be kept secure or under supervision and placed in files or locked drawers when unattended.

Is the student entitled to view evaluative opinions of the selection committee(s) for admission/awards?

Yes, generally speaking, evaluative opinions are the personal information of the person being evaluated. [Section 1(n)(viii) and 6(1)] If the committee consists solely, or has a majority of Institute staff, then Section 24(1)(a) may be used to withhold advice, but cannot apply to a statement of the reasons for a decision that is made in the exercise of a discretionary power. [Section 24(2)(b)]

Can personal information of students be disclosed to potential employers who are making reference checks?

Only if the student consents in writing to the disclosure of opinions about his/her grades, performance and suitability for the job. This consent may take the form of permission to contact the Institute or a named individual as a part of the student's application for employment. The Institute should require a copy of the application or that part of it which authorizes the potential employer to seek information. The Institute should disclose only factual information or opinion information that the person answering the request is qualified to disclose. This information should be the minimum required to meet the request of the employer. For the convenience of NAIT's staff and students, a Student Record Reference Request form is available on NAIT's FOIP site, to obtain student consent for references to potential employers.

Can an Institute share information about students with its students association?

Yes, but only to the extent that an agreement between the Institute and the Student Association requires information sharing. [Section 40(1)(e) Sharing personal information without an agreement is likely not a consistent use of information collected from students by the Institute. However, an Institute can't enter or uphold an agreement that breaches an individual's privacy under the Act. Other information sharing should only be done with the consent of the student. Consent could be gathered at the time of registration.

In dealing with appeals, complaints and requests for refunds, information must sometimes be obtained on students' attendance and performance and student loan information. Can this collection continue under the Act?

Yes. Section 38(1)(g) permits disclosure to an employee of the Institute in order for that person to perform their duties. The disclosure should be limited to the information needed to do the job and only provided to the individual who has a need to know that information.

Can the Institute collect the SIN from Students?

The only circumstance where a SIN should be collected is where the Institute has a reporting requirement to the Federal Government, or where legislation authorizes the collection for another purpose.

Is a verbal consent to use photographs for promotion adequate or should waivers be signed where students are identified or identifiable?

The Act makes no provision for verbal consent. If the program in which the student is enrolled or participating is one where such promotion is a reasonable use of a photograph, then this use should be stated in the disclosure statement provided at the time of collection (e.g. sports team, music programs, fine arts programs). If the promotion is not a regular part of the program, specific written consent should be obtained prior to use of a photograph. For the convenience of NAIT staff and students, a Photography/Media Consent and Release is available on NAIT's FOIP site.

Can an Institute disclose a student’s timetable?

No. A timetable contains information about a student's educational history. [Section 1(n)(vii)] It would also contain the student's name and likely, the student's ID number. Consent should be obtained before release unless discretion can be exercised under Section 40.

Can an Institute collect third party information from students (e.g. parents' date of birth/education?)

Section 34 of the Act governs the manner of collection of personal information. In order for the Institute to collect such information about third parties, it would have to be able to prove that the information was necessary to determine or verify the eligibility of the student to participate in a program or receive a benefit, service or product from the Institute. [Section 34(1)(k)] If it cannot do this, then the parents would have to authorize collection by the Institute from their son or daughter, or the information would have to be collected directly from the parents (e.g. credit card information). The Institute should take care to collect only that information which is related directly to and necessary for student admission and attendance at the Institute.

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