North Texas Daily

Businesses access student emails because of public infomation

Businesses access student emails because of public infomation

Businesses access student emails because of public infomation
February 04
00:36 2014

Joshua Knopp // Senior Staff Writer

Getting spam advertisements on the Eagle Connect email account from apartment complexes and other businesses can be annoying, but unfortunately for students, it isn’t avoidable without consequences.

Because of Texas’ public information act, all public universities are required to divulge directory information if it is requested. Directory information for UNT students includes a wide variety of information, including email addresses, physical addresses, dimensions for members of athletic teams and a photograph.

Students can file with the registrar’s office to have their information withheld, but that prevents the university from divulging the information to graduate schools and potential employers who want to verify the student’s identity.

“It’s the same thing as if it goes into the phone book,” said Elizabeth With, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management. “By and large what’s directory information would not be able to identify you, but it’s stuff that would be able to get in contact with you. Unless you withhold information that could be in the phone book.”

Associate vice president of student affairs and higher education doctoral student Melissa McGuire said that even if a student is bothered by the steady stream of emails and wants to have their information withheld, they should probably allow it to be disclosed after graduating.

Without divulging directory information, UNT cannot confirm whether or not a person was ever a student. This could hamper employers and post-graduate schools doing background checks.

“People can create a diploma at home,” she said. “A high-profile institution wants to know they’re getting the best of the best. They’re probably going to do some investigative work.”

Students can find the form to withhold their directory information at http://www.unt.edu/ferpa/withhold-directory-info.html. However, they must turn it in to the registrar before the census date of each semester or session. This semester’s census was Jan. 27.

Although the emails seem constant, only nine companies requested directory information last fall. According to a list compiled by Lena McLain, an information technology specialist in the registrar’s office, four apartment complexes, two advertising firms, a local bus tour company, a national graduation announcement distributor and a new textbook company requested the information.

According to Eagle Creek Apartment leasing officers, UNT charges $65 to process the information and the complex didn’t even use it.

“Everybody looks at their Eagle Connect emails to see what’s going on with their teacher,” biology senior and manager Elise Raley said. “Most people don’t want to see all that junking of the email, so we opted not to do that.”

Eagle Creek has instead stuck to on-campus housing magazines. Raley said more than half of Eagle Creek tenants are students.

Other apartment complexes, like City Parc at Fry Street, find the information invaluable. General manager Nicole Whitmire said almost all tenants are students, and business from UNT and Texas Women’s University email addresses is significant.

“A lot of the UNT students complain that they get too much and they don’t check it,” Whitmire said. “But we do get a lot of traffic from that.”

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