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Betrayed by the system


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Arizona Daily Wildcat

John A. Ward

By John A. Ward
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
November 12, 1999
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The University of Arizona has betrayed our trust and mocked our concerns for safety. They have made our private information public and have ridiculed any objections raised to this hazard. Any stranger can, with a few clicks of the mouse, know much more about you than you want them to know. All that is needed is a dangerous or sick mind and a mouse, and the online student directory can be pulled up on a computer screen.

As long as someone knows your name they can pull up information on where you live, your phone number and your e-mail.

Perhaps you did not know this information was so easily accessible to your peers or anyone else for that matter. Should this be a concern? Well maybe, especially if you are a young, attractive female on campus. But this concern should not only be borne by young female students but by all students. You never know who you will offend or attract on a campus of over 34,000. Hopefully, it won't be the wrong person, but you never can be sure.

According to the UAPD, so far this year there have already been 94 cases of reported harassment. No records are kept that records where the harassed student believes their harasser obtained their address, phone number or e-mail but the online student directory is obviously one easy source. I have spoken with and been told of a few students who have been harassed or threatened, and they are convinced their harasser found out their address or phone numbers by way of the online student directory.

Most of us expect threatening letters or calls to be harmless and sent by some random wacko, but as a society, we are realizing more and more that these wackos are not making idle threats.

Earlier this week, I set out to have some questions answered and concerns voiced on this issue. One of the first questions that came to mind for the University of Arizona administration was: "When are students made aware that their personal information is placed on this directory? How are they supposed to know?" Well, the administration gave me an answer. If students read page 15 in the schedule of classes, they will see it under the "Directory Information" subtitle. Does anyone read all the information at the beginning of the schedule of classes?

If our personal information is going to be available to anyone, students should be made aware of it in a more obvious and conspicuous manner. It shouldn't be sandwiched in the middle of all the fine print.

It is interesting that this information is not protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which is supposed to ensure confidentiality of sensitive student information. Apparently, personal addresses, phone numbers and e-mail aren't included in this act.

In researching this column, I had the opportunity to speak with a university public relations spokesperson who, though very helpful, was rather insensitive and condescending. It was made clear to me that my concerns over the online student directory and student safety were irrelevant and a non-issue. My stated concerns were received as trivial.

In fact, I couldn't help but get the impression that I was being told that any threats arising out of information gotten from this directory were harmless inconveniences that shouldn't be taken seriously. Tell that to the students who have received very serious threats or to the student who may be stalked or raped. I wonder if this will be taken as a serious concern then.

I was even told that this column was pursued not in the interest of the student body but for self-serving purposes. Even more interesting is how representatives of this university tried to twist sincere concern into self promotion.

It's time for the university to fully warn students that unless they venture to the UA Registrar's office and have their private information secured, anyone and everyone has access to it.

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