Concerns raised about students’ privacy

Lindsey Reed

Students on the Hill may be getting a little more privacy if Student Government Association adopts recommendations made during its meeting Tuesday.

Richard Kirchmeyer, vice president for Information Technology, suggested removing some personal student information from the print and online campus directory to protect against identity theft.

More than 1 million cases of identity theft occurred in 2002 from people accessing personal information online, Kirchmeyer said.

“If that happens to you, it’s going to cost you about $17,000 of your own personal money to clear your name, and it’s going to take you about 175 hours to do it – and that’s if your lucky,” he said.

He said information found in the directory could also be used by a person wanting to cause bodily harm to a student.

Kirchmeyer gave ideas to SGA on how the issue could be improved.

Kirchmeyer explained that a hotel front desk will not release a guest’s room number without the guest’s permission. A hotel type of policy, in which information about where a student lives cannot be given without consent from the student, may be more safe, he said.

Kirchmeyer’s suggestion is to remove the student’s home and dorm address from the campus directory. Only the student’s name, telephone number, hometown, e-mail address and major would appear.

“That way if anyone wants to know where you live, you would have to tell them,” Kirchmeyer said.

He also suggested blocking people outside of Western from accessing some personal information online.

He said an online log-on system could be created that would only be used by Western students to access the directory.

“I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the way we do things right now,” he said. “It’s just that in the kind of society we live in, you have to be more careful.”

University Senate is already considering removing faculty home information from the directory.

Monticello junior Shawn Peavie, chair of the SGA Campus Improvements Committee, said Kirchmeyer’s presentation made him start thinking about the possible risks involved in the current directory policy.

Peavie said it would be harmful if someone were to find enough information on a student to get into their TopNet account.

“They could change your schedule or drop a person from a class,” Peavie said.

Jackson junior Josh Collins, an SGA justice, said that he does not feel threatened by having his personal home information posted, but he is glad the issue is being addressed by administrators.

“I was very happy to hear that they were going to phase out Social Security numbers,” he said.

Collins said he found out the University of Louisville required a log-on ID to access campus phone numbers when he tried to contact a friend.

Collins said it came to his attention last year during the Melissa “Katie” Autry case that it would be easy to use the online directory to contact the homes of students.

“I realized that the news media could call Katie Autry’s parents,” he said.

Paducah junior Hollan Holm, an SGA member, expressed concerns about whether or not student organizations would lose access to students’ contact information.

Kirchmeyer said student addresses will be available for student organizations, but the number of mass e-mails organizations can send will be limited.

SGA vice president Patti Johnson said the Student Affairs Committee may look into Kirchmeyer’s suggestions and, if needed, write the proper legislation.

Reach Lindsey Reed at [email protected]