A time to answer for Cat Card
If the CatCard is one of the most poorly articulated plans the University of Arizona has come up with to date, then the release of students' Social Security numbers to two companies has to be one of the most unjustified breaches of student, staff and faculty privacy the university has ever made. Some things do go hand in hand.
Thanks to UA President Peter Likins' apology, the community has someone to blame, even if the process that led to CatCard was initiated before Likins came to the UA. Instead of passing the blame to an underling, Likins stood up and took full responsibility for releasing the personally identifiable information to MCI Telecommunications Corp. and Saguaro Credit Union. Likins' frankness continues to surprise a university used to silence at the top.
By the university's own admission, the release of the numbers was probably a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. FERPA prohibits the release of personally identifiable information without students' consent.
The numbers have since been returned, but it is unclear whether the university even had to recall them since the law isn't readily enforced. At best, the release was a gross mistreatment of students, faculty and staff privacy and it was important for Likins to acknowledge that. But students deserve a little more.
Since the president has taken the heat it's now time to cool the embers. Likins gave his word that the numbers weren't copied by MCI and Saguaro, but the community needs to know that a release of this magnitude hasn't happened before and won't happen again.
Today's presidential forum from noon to 2 p.m. in the Memorial Student Union's Tucson Room is an opportunity for the administration to put those fears, and the rampant rumors about any number of possible privacy violations relating to CatCard, to rest. It is also an opportunity for a definative explanation of the project's apparent sloppiness.