At the beginning of September, MUNFA was in receipt of an arbitration decision on an Association Grievance (A-03-04) concerning the administration of Course Evaluation Questionnaires (CEQs). The Arbitration Board was chaired by Mr. S. Bruce Outhouse of Blois, Nickerson & Bryson of Halifax, NS, and the ruling will be of interest to all MUNFA members.
In the first instance, on the issue of Academic Staff Member (ASM) administration of CEQs, the Board ruled in favour of the administration, and dismissed the grievance. The unanimous decision reflected the Board’s consensus that participation in the administration of the CEQs does not by any measure add to a faculty member’s teaching responsibilities or impinge on his or her academic freedom. It was judged that carrying out CEQs in an ASM’s classroom is performance of “…an incidental administrative[italics added] task which is neither time-consuming nor onerous.”
At the same arbitration hearing, the administration and MUNFA agreed to allow the Board jurisdiction to rule on whether the publication of mandatory CEQ results violated the privacy rights of ASMs. This was largely argued on the basis of the provincial “Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act” (ATIPPA) of 2002. The Board was asked whether the collection, use and disclosure by the administration of personal information about ASMs – namely, the CEQ results – was reasonable given concerns about the privacy rights of ASMs. It was argued and accepted by the Board, that the intended user groups for the CEQ information are individual ASMs, the administration, and students. And while the Board did not foresee any problem in regard to two of the three user groups – individual ASMs can decide for themselves how widely to disseminate CEQ results, and the administration should readily be able to put in place internal safeguards to prevent CEQ results from being “leaked” to unauthorized persons – the student user group presented a far more difficult challenge. Given that students can access the CEQ results in the library, and on the World Wide Web, and can copy and make whatever use of the results they want, including public disclosure, the University administration has no effective control over CEQ results, and would not be acting reasonably if it allowed this to continue. The Arbitration Board directed the University administration, in consultation with MUNFA, “to implement more effective measures to restrict the disclosure of, and access to, CEQ results.”
While significant, the impact of this decision is confounded by two additional issues: first, Part IV of ATIPPA, which deals with the protection of individual privacy, has yet to be proclaimed; and second, MUNFA retains an Association Grievance at arbitration dealing explicitly with privacy and the publication of CEQ results. Given these factors, MUNFA will continue to advise our Members concerning the evolving issue of CEQs.