266 Queen’s students have also been suspended since August 2020
Peter Donnelly, Editor
Queen’s University has said that that the University “does not retain any information on non-students” following the announcement that it was working in partnership with public agencies, including the Police, to ensure that students who breach Coronavirus Regulations are also internally sanctioned.
A University spokesperson also revealed that over 260 Queen’s Students had been suspended for breaking such restrictions.
Last week The Gown reported that Queen’s University, Belfast had an Information Sharing Agreement with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
Following publication of The Gown’s report into the events surrounding this year’s St. Patrick’s Day, around the university areas of South Belfast, Queen’s University confirmed that it has in place Information Sharing Agreements (ISAs) with both the Police and Belfast City Council.
Additional emergency amendments to the University’s Conduct Regulations, which were expedited as the Coronavirus pandemic unravelled, introduced new disciplinary measures including the option for a two-week suspension for students found to be in breach of the Health Protection Regulations. This will happen when the University is “notified” of any such breaches.
That information comes from public authorities, as part of the institution’s ISAs.
Sources connected to the Queen’s Student’s Union recently expressed their concerns that Queen’s University was in possession of information in relation to non-student members of the public who were sanctioned for breach of the Coronavirus Regulations.
Queen’s University clarified their position to The Gown on Monday.
A spokesperson for the University said that the institution “is provided with names of individuals who have been issued with PSNI notifications for breaches of COVID regulations within the wider university area.”
Those names which are relayed to the University, by the PSNI, are then “checked against the QSIS (Queen’s Student Information System) record.” The spokesperson continued that Queen’s “does not retain any information on non-students.”
Despite this statement, however, it is clear that the University’s Community Engagement Office is in possession of the names and information of all persons, students or non-students, who have been issued with Coronavirus sanctions in the “university area” for at least a time.
Indeed a copy of the Agreement, provided by Queen’s to The Gown, stipulates that information on individuals is “kept in a form which permits identification of data subjects for no longer than is necessary” to enable the Community Engagement Office “to conduct their own investigation.”
It is also stated that “relevant data” should only be retained until “required for the purposes for which it is shared, or until the end of a students’ attachment with the University.”
The Agreement however states that the Agreement would be reviewed, and if necessary revised, in 2020. The Gown were provided with the original 2019, non-revised copy.
ISA helps to “prevent” crime in the university area
The ISA, which came into effect in 2019, is underscored by the aim that the two bodies agree to work in meaningful partnership “to prevent, detect and or reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.” The Agreement also stipulates that it wishes to “reassure the local community and to assist the welfare safety and security of students whilst engaged with the University.”
The introductory sections of the Agreement state that the data-sharing under it is compliant with GDPR, data protection laws and with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is given domestic legal effect by the Human Rights Act 1998. Members of the University’s staff, the ISA says, are specially trained in line with modern standards concerning “the responsibility and obligations improved by the ISA.”
Queen’s Student Suspensions
The existing ISA has allowed Queen’s University to identify students who have committed legal breaches and the University Conduct Regulations during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The University also revealed that a total of 266 Queen’s students have been in issued with Emergency Precautionary Suspensions, since August 2020 until 12th March 2021.