Directory shares student information without consent

Kevin Squires, Assistant News Editor
March 6, 2014

It’s recommended by many that you never ask a woman her weight, but a student’s weight is just one of the 17 categories of information that are deemed public information by Slippery Rock University. The university is able to use and disclose this public information without a student’s consent for any purpose at its discretion, according to a public notice designating directory information on the Slippery Rock website.

A student’s name, pictures, addresses (local, permanent, and e-mail), telephone number (local and permanent), date and place of birth, program and concentration, student activities, height, dates of attendance, degrees and awards received, date of graduation, all educational institutions previously attended, academic awards/scholarships, class level and anticipated graduation date are among additional forms of information able to be shared by the university.

The university has a publicly accessible directory of all students with each individual’s name, email address, and phone number listed.

For Marc Fort, an owner of Stoneworth Apartments, this is unacceptable. “This should not be public information,” Fort said in a speech to the Student Government Association Monday night.

“The problem is blast emails that these apartment complexes are sending out,” Fort explained. He wants the university to stop providing this information to the public, specifically apartment complexes that he believes are harassing students with the information.

“It is a form of harassment. Some students are getting over 100 emails a month,” Fort said. He plans to submit an advertising code of conduct for all the apartment complexes to agree to in an effort to stop the blast emails.

“You guys don’t need more garbage coming into your emails every day,” he said. Fort worried that students may miss an important email alert and about stalkers making use of the information.

“The students are so sick of receiving these that they won’t look at one they should be looking at like an email alert,” he said.

The directory information should be made private, according to Fort. “It should be for university use only,” Fort said. “The solution is the university needs to make private all of your emails.

“It’s going to take an effort from everyone to take care of this problem,” he said. He plans to speak with Dr. Robert Watson, Vice President for Student Affairs, and the other apartment complex managers at their next meeting.

Fort suggested changing the email addresses of all the current students as a possible solution to unwanted emails.

“That’s not a very simple task. For a lot of upperclassmen, we give out our email address mainly as a networking thing. If we changed that we would lose a lot. Technically we could always mark it as spam,” Student Government Association President Buddy Clements said.

Clements then suggested examining better filters and issuing a cease notice to those abusing the directory. “I think getting the directory off the page is not a hard thing to do,” he said.

Many of the Pa. State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) schools do not have an online directory of their students. Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Edinboro University both have directories similar in nature to Slippery Rock University. However, their directories feature statements of use stipulating that the directory may only be used for university purposes. Bloomsburg University requires a university log in to access the directory. All of the PASSHE schools are able to disclose certain student information as public without a student’s previous consent in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).

According to the public notice from Slippery Rock, currently enrolled students do have the opportunity to withhold disclosure of the 17 categories of information under the FERPA. However, the university will not partially withhold this information, so students are advised by the university to think carefully before requesting non-disclosure.

Students requesting that directory information not be disclosed during their final semester of enrollment will have this information withheld indefinitely after leaving the University.  Students are cautioned by the university that making such a request may adversely impact future requests from potential employers, and other important individuals/organizations.

To withhold disclosure of directory information, written notification must be received in the Office of Academic Records and Summer School, Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, Pa 16057 prior to the end of the second week of each semester/summer session. Forms requesting the withholding of directory information are available in the Office of Academic Records and Summer School, Room 107, Old Main.

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