Student privacy rights questioned

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November 12, 2010

1:00 AM

A recent Virginia state law has some members of the College of William and Mary’s Student Assembly to question its effect on privacy.

After the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007, the Virginia state government passed Campus Assessment and Intervention Team, a law allowing student information to be shared between the police department, the counseling center, and the dean of students’s office.

Several members of the SA are currently working to protect student rights in regard to possible threats from the CAIT law.

The law allows the three departments to share their separate information about each student in order to assess the amount of risk some students may pose to themselves or to the rest of the student body. Under the law, repeat offenders would be put on a high-risk list, monitored and discussed at meetings held by the police department, the counseling center and the dean of students.

“It’s an information-sharing network,” Sen. Zann Isacson ’13 said. “Basically, what it does is, if a student gets into trouble more than once, they get put on a high-risk list … and if you get on this list, basically the idea is to share this information so that they can identify kids that would be having issues. This really started after Virginia Tech, and has been adopted here because of the frighteningly large suicide rate [at the College].”

Members of the SA are working to get more information on this law and whether or not the issue of students’ privacy could come into play.

“Under Virginia state law, since the Virginia Tech shootings, all public universities required, if proven a danger, police and residence life to enter the [student’s] room and deal with the situation,” Sen. Zach Marcus ’12 said. “As it currently stands, if they found anything unrelated, they can hold whatever they find against a student … I think it’s a travesty that this happens; conceptually it doesn’t make any sense. The rule is being changed so that any unrelated evidence found can’t be used against the student.”

Isacson, the secretary of student rights for the SA, said she still has to talk to Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 Ph.D. ’06 about the specifics of the law and its effect on student’s privacy.

“From where we are right now, there’s nothing,” Isacson said. “There’s no real information on the policy. I really want to meet with [Ambler]. There has to be a way that privacy ends and the well being of all the students is preserved. The Student Assembly has not done anything at this moment. Every student has their own privacy and their own rights that should be preserved at all times … but because there’s no information on the situation, [it] makes me a little nervous.”

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