External Release of University Information Policy

Purpose

This policy governs the appropriate external release of official or public data and information about the university. The purpose of this policy is to ensure data that appear in official publications, or are provided to any outside entity, are accurate and compiled using consistent definitions and data bases.

Scope

The policy describes the process for determining which university office will be responsible for the approval and/or external release of official or public data or information. Coordinated release is important to make certain there is uniformity in reporting university statistics and information. Depending on the nature of the information to be released, different offices will be responsible for its compilation.

Definitions

Official data: Public data that is most often used to describe the university and based on standards imposed either by external regulatory agencies or by internal university practice.

Policy

All external requests for official or public data should go through the Office of Institutional Research (IR). IR maintains the data snapshots for most data about the university and is responsible for responding to requests for such data from external agencies, including the federal government, state and local governments, publishers of college guide books, etc. Specific exceptions to this policy are noted later on this page.

In the release of official or public data, IR follows a rigorous documentation and verification process. IR also recognizes and adheres to the Association of Institutional Research code of ethics. In most cases, IR will maintain the documentation and copies of the data released externally along with a compiled report that results from the release.

The following are examples of the types of external requests for which IR is responsible:

  • guidebooks for prospective students (College Board, Princeton, Wintergreen Orchardhouse, etc.),
  • publications by external entities (NSF, CUPA, NSSE, ACT, etc.),
  • ranking publications (U.S. News and World Report, Sierra Club, etc.),
  • surveys (CSRDE, Chronicle Tuition Survey, etc.),
  • other external reports available to the general public,
  • official university reports for release through university publications or websites (Fact Book, IR website, marketing material, Admissions Viewbook, etc.),
  • mandated reports (IPEDS, State of Michigan, Higher Education Opportunity Act, Higher Learning Commission, etc.),
  • research grants that require university data, and
  • contractual reporting to WMU unions (AAUP, TAU, PIO).

Departments or units that receive a request for official or public data that are covered by this policy, should complete the part of the request which is unit, school, or program specific and consult with IR for the parts that require official or public data. In most cases, a completed copy of the full questionnaire or survey will be provided to IR to be retained centrally.

There are specific instances when other offices should coordinate the release of data outside the university. The follow list describes such instances:

  • Freedom of Information Act requests (see University FOIA Officer)
  • Accreditation reports (see the Office of Institutional Effectiveness)

Often accrediting agencies require university level data in addition to program level data. These requests and compilations should be managed through the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness may decide that it is appropriate to work with IR.

  • Local and national media request (see University Relations)

It is important for University Relations to coordinate media requests in order to promote a unified brand and message of WMU. University Relations will coordinate with the appropriate offices for data to be released.

  • Mandated and routine reporting specific to an individual area

These requests should be conducted by that area and IR should be consulted when university data is requested. (Examples include: athletic reporting, crime reporting, tax forms, human resource work utilization reporting, financial reporting, institutional equity reporting, etc.)

Justification

It is routine for external entities to compile data found on public websites that gather and report data on universities. It is difficult to anticipate when releasing WMU data or information how the data will be used or whether the consumer will understand the nuances of how data are defined or derived. Therefore, it is necessary to be as consistent in the delivery as possible.

Enforcement

Any person found to be in violation of this policy will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action as defined by current University policy or contract.

Reference

Document Action

Approved by: IT Executive Advisory Board, Aug. 13, 2015