Taking the Fear out of FOIP

You've seen her before… you know you have… but where? Karen Mahar gets that a lot lately.

The long-time Faculty of Fine Arts employee has recently traded in one administrative skill set for another, taking on the role of Privacy Co-ordinator and Policy Analyst. Her primary responsibility is managing the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act.

Nobody wishes to be a FOIP officer the same way kids pine to be firefighters or doctors, but Mahar says her interest in the position was the appeal to work on research, policies and processes.

"I started 12 years ago at the U of L as a casual employee and ultimately moved into an administrative position in the dean's office in the Faculty of Fine Arts," she says. "During that time, I earned a BA and an MA with designs on a position that gave me the opportunity to brainstorm and connect more with the University community on a different level."

Karen Mahar is the new Privacy Co-ordinator and Policy Analyst.

Mahar says that when the chance came up to apply for this new role, she jumped in with both feet.

"It involves research, which I love, and it also provides an opportunity to write and to participate in a number of interesting projects."

Mahar began in August and will succeed Rita Law, who, after establishing the office, is retiring in December. As they work through the transition, Mahar says that Law's work to build the foundation of the office and get people on board with FOIP and its processes has been very helpful.

"She is an invaluable resource, and has been an excellent and very patient teacher," she says. "I don't want people to think of FOIP as a four letter word. My goal in the role is to pick up where Rita leaves off, and work on the awareness and the acceptance of the fact that this is a law, it is not optional. We need to work with it, and not fear it or avoid it. I want to bring a level of comfort and understanding to people's awareness about the laws, so that it becomes part of people's regular job processes."

To help take the fear out of FOIP, Mahar is hosting a series of seminars on FOIP and its various applications. Her talks (FOIP for Faculty is Wednesday, Nov. 2 at noon in AH176, followed by a Friday, Nov. 4 FOIP Free-for-All at noon in AH177) target specific groups, including faculty, front-line employees and anyone who wants to learn more about how to apply FOIP regulations to their work.

"I have to be honest, FOIP scared me, as it seems to scare everyone at one point or another," says Mahar. "However, the more I got into it, and the more I've come to understand how the process works, I love it. I see why it makes sense and its practical application in numerous areas on campus. FOIP is very logical and very straightforward."

Mahar wants people to call with questions or comments, and she is willing to conduct specific programming for business units, employee groups or departments on request. Contact her at 403-332-4620 or e-mail

This story first appeared in the November issue of the Legend. For a look at the Legend in a flipbook format, follow this link.