On Campus

UOttawa profs decry "snitch line"

Anonymous reporting system can take tips either online or over a telephone hotline

A new security reporting tool, designed to allow employees to report theft, fraud, vandalism and unethical behaviour, is creating controversy at the University of Ottawa.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, the trademarked ClearView Connects system, which will cost the school about $13,000 dollars, will collect anonymous tips both online and through a live operator on a telephone hotline. The tips will then be forwarded to the school’s governance office.

In an email to staff, acting vice-president of governance Nathalie Des Rosier says “it is the duty of each employee to immediately report any incidents of wrong-doing related to University activities.”

She says McMaster has a similar reporting policy, as does the University of Lethbridge and Athabasca University.

Some academics are outraged, and say the system represents an invasion of privacy.

“A snitch line — that’s really what this is — creates an atmosphere of mistrust and secrecy,” said James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. “It will open the door to malicious allegations because it promises anonymity.”

Phil Enright, ClearView’s executive vice-president of sales says the service is not a snitch line.

“My clients use it as an employee engagement mechanism — they know their concerns. Employees report things they sincerely believe to be a problem. It’s a positive thing,” he says. “Our clients have reported that the system is extremely valuable. Not just learning about ethics concerns, but learning about people leaving the organization.”

Enright declined to say how many clients the company has, but ClearView is the major player in Canada. He says the system is compliant with the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

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