Privacy flags raise concern for graduate students



Undergraduate students are not the only ones concerned with personal information available through UK’s online people search — now, graduate students are voicing their concern, too.

Members of UK’s graduate school have recently voiced concern about their information like home address and home telephone number being available on the UK Web site without their knowledge, said English teaching assistant Jesslyn Collins-Frohlich.

“We’ve been talking in my office because there are at least two or three people who’ve had students … call them late at night,” Collins-Frohlich said. “As a TA and as a student instructor, you just don’t really want that relationship and that access to you.”

Collins-Frohlich said since TAs are considered students, they are victim to the same privacy problems as other students, but a distinction needs to be made between student instructors and normal students.

“We would just like the same privacy and respect of our privacy that they give other instructors,” she said.

UK follows the 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which is a federal law that tries to protect privacy of personal information within student education records.

FERPA states schools can give the following information without consent: a student’s name, address, phone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards and dates of attendance, according to the U.S. Department of Education Web site.

Students cannot find the home address and home telephone number of full-time professors on the Web site, but they can find TAs, Collins-Frohlich said.

“It’s just scary as a TA to know that a student that’s mad about a grade or something could show up at your door potentially,” she said.

Gretchen Wolf, a representative on the Graduate Student Congress, found problems in how privacy flags do not allow administrators to confirm a students’ enrollment. This creates a barrier when companies call to confirm student loans, she said.

T. Lynn Williamson, senior associate in legal services, said advantages and disadvantages come with getting a privacy flag.

“The privacy flag says we will release no directory information about the student, and you know when it says ‘no information,’ it means that,” he said. “You don’t really expect that the Registrar’s Office would say ‘it’s OK to tell this person, but it’s not OK to tell this person.’ You couldn’t even possibly expect that.”

Williamson said if a student got a privacy flag, UK would not be able to confirm them as a student because of the law, and that student would find his or her name missing at commencement ceremonies as well.

Williamson said creating a system that allows students to choose what information is made available is possible, but not at UK. Williamson said it would take thousands of dollars to let students choose what information they wanted available.

“Is it possible at the University of Kentucky with the technologies, the computer systems that we have? No, it’s not possible,” he said.