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Presuppose a student at a university in England. I do not confirm or deny whether it is Durham. I use Durham just as an example. Student has mental illness. The Head of the Student Conduct Office ("SCO") emailed like this to Student

The university sympathizes with your severe mental illnesses. We have discussed your case with your department. We are writing to require you to use a single point of contact — the Student Conduct Office — rather than emailing your department directly. For any matter involving your department, email correspondence must be sent to [email protected]. You shall not email anyone in your department directly. We shall request replies from our colleagues as appropriate. We shall revert to you within five working days.

This restriction on email unnerves Student. Has Head broken any university regulation, or law?

  1. Doesn't this breach Student's privacy, and taint Student to instructors? When the SCO emails instructors on Student's behalf, then instructors will know that something has gone awry, because students normally email their instructors directly. Instructors shall draw adverse inferences and prejudice against Student!

  2. Waiting five working days is unproductive and unrealistic. By butting in as the middle man, the SCO is slowing everything down, and beefing up more work for everyone!

Greendrake's last paragraph of his answer appears wrong.

This isn't a breach of confidentiality between the department and the student because the department and the SCO are parts of a single entity — the university. For any uni-related issues, confidentiality can only exist between the student and the uni as a whole, not with individual departments.

Why is Greendrake wrong? See below.

If anyone outside the Counselling, Mental Health and Wellbeing Service enquires about a student, we explain to them that it is a confidential service and that we cannot comment on whom we may or may not be seeing, or have seen.

Information shared with us by the Counselling Service under the Student Services Confidentiality and Information Sharing Policy will not be disclosed either within or external to the University.

Any information you disclose is confidential to the Student Wellbeing Services team. As a rule, we do not pass on personal information about you, including your attendance, to anyone outside the service (such as parents, tutors and placement staff).

Information, both verbal and written, should be shared on a ‘need to know’ basis. If information needs to be communicated with others in the university, that information must contain only the minimal details required.

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When the SCO emails instructors on Student's behalf, then instructors will know that something has gone awry, because students normally email their instructors directly.

Well, it looks like something has gone awry between the department and the student already, which is why there is now a case which the SCO is dealing with:

We have discussed your case with your department.

So, apparently, the SCO thinks that the issue between the student and the department is of such magnitude that any further direct interaction between them would only complicate the case. Simply put, you don't go dancing with someone in the evening if in the morning you testified against them on a witness stand.

That said, the SCO is just trying to resolve the issue, and is just asking the student not to make it harder for them.

This isn't a breach of confidentiality between the department and the student because the department and the SCO are parts of a single entity — the university. For any uni-related issues, confidentiality can only exist between the student and the uni as a whole, not with individual departments.

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  • Please see the editS to my post. Do they change your answer? And where does Durham publish what you wrote in your last paragraph?
    – user49089
    Aug 31, 2022 at 6:36
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    @asts You seem to be conflating the legal concept of "breach of confidentiality" with the policies that individual universities chose to have for themselves. Even if Durham uni had that sort of policy, the most you could accuse them of is breaching their own policies (which they can change on the fly), not the law.
    – Greendrake
    Aug 31, 2022 at 6:40
  • "the legal concept of "breach of confidentiality" applies to universities. "the most you could accuse them of is breaching their own policies" — You do not have appeared to answer whether university breached its own policy?
    – user49089
    Sep 3, 2022 at 9:39
  • @asts Whether the uni breached its own policy is a separate question to whether it breached the law (confidentiality). I answered the latter but did not intend to answer the former. Perhaps you know it better anyway.
    – Greendrake
    Sep 3, 2022 at 10:05

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