Western frying small fish

One of the initiatives on some campus officials’ minds is the protection of the privacy of students and faculty.

In the wake of increased incidents of student harassment and the potential for identity theft, Western is reconsidering the information that is available in directory listings.

Through Western’s print and online directories, anyone can access students’ or faculty members’ school and home addresses and phone numbers.

There’s a push on the Hill to remove such information from the directories. While we understand the threats to personal safety posed by the availability of this information, we don’t think it’s necessary to simply eliminate it.

The logic is there: Limit access to directory information and significantly reduce the threat of mischief.

Maybe, maybe not.

There are phonebooks everywhere, as well as online services such as Switchboard.com. Both allow anyone who wants to obtain phone numbers and addresses to do so.

Likewise, we can count on one hand the cases of documented identification theft at Western.

So why should personal information remain easily accessible? The answer is convenience. Say you lose your student ID and a good Samaritan wants to track you down to return it. Without directory information, how would he or she find you?

Still, we can’t fault those who do not want their information to be published. In those cases, striking personal contact information from Western’s directories can be done with a few mouse clicks on Topnet.

If Western’s goal is to prevent criminal activity that relates to student and faculty information, then the use of Social Security numbers is a much bigger issue. With that number a person can score a credit card and wreak havoc on a person’s finances. Until just a few semesters ago, Social Security numbers were plastered across student IDs.

We’re not babies here. This is supposed to be a training ground for the real world, so Western should make it such. It should be the responsibility of each student and faculty member to take care of his or her self.

We shouldn’t just throw personal information around without regard for its potential for harm. But there is more information floating around out there – like Social Security numbers – that can do more damage than a phone number or home address.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 10-member board of student editors.