Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Government plans to set up student database

LA JOLLA, Calif. – University of California at San Diego officials may make private student information available to the U.S. Department of Defense for the purpose of military recruitment should the federal government request it, according to Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson.

In an effort to expand waning military reserves, the Department of Defense is planning to compile a database with personal statistics of approximately 30 million Americans, including high school students aged 16 to 18 and all college students. Such information would include student addresses, telephone numbers, ethnicity, Social Security numbers, grade point averages and areas of study.

Known as the Joint Advertising and Market Research Recruiting Database, the list is being established “to provide a single central facility within the Department of Defense to compile, process and distribute files of individuals who meet age and minimum school requirements for military service,” according to the official notice published in the Federal Register.

In implementing the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act that limits the disclosure of a student’s personal information, the University of California classifies itself as 13 separate institutions rather than as one single entity.

Each UC campus exerts some degree of independence when it comes to decisions involving student records.

While University of California at Los Angeles officials have said they would only release student information under a court order, UCSD officials say that any request for information will be processed in compliance with campus regulations that limits the type of student records that may be released to third parties.

“We consider the protection of student privacy as an important responsibility of the campus,” Watson said. “Consequently, we are most concerned about any proposal that might compromise the privacy of students.”

When asked whether UCSD would overrule a federal request, Watson said that at the present time there is no conflict between federal law and university policy regarding the release of student information, and there have been no requests to date of student information.

“Federal recruiters have the same access to the campus, student information and students as other public and private entities,” he said.

Chancellor Mary Anne Fox expressed similar sentiments.

“Our policy would normally be to not turn over personal student information, since that’s consistent with student privacy laws,” she said. “On the other hand, we would follow the law if need be.”

Establishing a database for recruitment would not be a new practice, according to David S. C. Chu, the Department of Defense’s undersecretary for personnel and readiness. The military have kept lists of potential recruits for multiple years, he stated in an article published by an informational entity of the Pentagon. The Pentagon will also strictly limit the use of data collected, according to Chu.

“We don’t give these lists out to other people,” he stated. “[The data] are given only to the military recruiters.”

The database is not the first effort by the federal government to attract new military personnel. Under a provision of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, high schools must turn over student information at the behest of a military recruiter.

While students and parents may request that private information not be turned over by schools, they cannot prevent military collection of student data from other sources.

Critics of the act are especially worried about issues of civil rights and privacy, particularly violations of FERPA, which seeks to limit the dissemination of personal information to third parties.

“We have written letters to San Diego schools and worked with school districts on how to protect student information,” said Ranjana Natarajan, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “The [Department of Defense] needs to respect [student and family] wishes and should be very careful about what is compiled … we are making sure [the department] compiles the very minimum necessary.”

On its Web site, the Electronic Privacy Information Center states, “The Department of Defense’s handling of this database has clearly violated [FERPA]. The continuing collection, use and maintenance of a system of records provide a basis for legal action and congressional oversight.”

The collection of Social Security numbers and other private information increases the risk of identity theft should such information fall into the wrong hands, according to the E.P.I.C. Web site.

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