Phone records now public for MnSCU faculty

A new policy enacted last week applies to employee personal devices used for work purposes.

Olivia Johnson

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities employees will be forced to hand over personal cellphones to administrators at their request if the devices are used for work purposes.
 
 
The procedure went into effect Friday, when faculty and staff were notified by email of the change. Leaders hope the extra measure will protect student information, MnSCU spokesperson Doug Anderson said in a statement.
 
 
“The obligation to protect information has been in place for many years and is unchanged,” the statement said. “The goal of the procedure is to alert employees to the effect of state law on their use of personal devices for work.”
 
 
The procedure was first proposed in December at a committee meeting, Minnesota State College Faculty President Kevin Lindstrom.
 
 
“When we first became aware of it, we immediately expressed concerns regarding, in particular, the degree to which it invades faculty privacy,” Lindstrom said.
 
 
According to the policy, all phone records — including texts and emails — are public data, but the school said it will do its best to avoid private information, should it search an employee’s phone.
 
 
“It may not always be possible to differentiate between personal and government data,” according to an FAQ on the policy, “but a good-faith effort will be made to limit access to government data that is needed.”
 
 
MnSCU can provide school-owned devices, Lindstrom said, but employees often aren’t approved for a work phone.
 
 
“We have a lot of adjunct faculty who don’t even have an office,” he said. “They’re almost forced to use their personal equipment.”
 
 
Henry Hiddinga, a biology assistant professor at Winona State University, said he was bothered by the new procedure.
 
 
“If you are a faculty and use your own personal cell to receive calls … even for some related stuff, they have a right to come in and search your personal cellphone,” he said. “Over my dead body.”
 
 
He said he thinks the procedure’s intentions to track professor-student relationships are fair; though he said few students have his personal number.