Who’s looking for your address?

Students who have chosen through Banweb to make their addresses and phone numbers private may be surprised to learn that public records law makes student directory information available anyway.

Students who have chosen through Banweb to make their addresses and phone numbers private may be surprised to learn that public records law makes student directory information available anyway.

“We give out directory information to everyone who asks for it,” said Agnes Hoffman, associate vice provost for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs. “The public records laws require that records be released unless there is a specific request that they not be.”

Under Oregon law, third parties may request and receive student “directory information.” Directory information includes students’ names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, dates of university attendance, degrees and awards received, number of credits earned, and whether a student is enrolled full-time or part-time.

The Portland State website says, “Student contact information is confidential.” However, Banweb does tell students how to keep their directory information private.

“That language was added long ago and no one I talk to remembers what the thought was behind it,” wrote PSU’s interim General Counsel Chip Lazenby in an e-mail. “An intrepid person could still get the information by requesting [it]…it will be provided as long as the student has not requested confidentiality.”

If students want their directory information to be private, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows them to file a nondisclosure request with the Office of Admissions, Records, and Financial Aid.

Once a nondisclosure request is filed, the university will not release any information about a student, such as telling a potential employer that a student has graduated from PSU. However, a student can reopen his or her directory information by filing a one-time-only release request.

While public records law requires PSU to give out student directory information, the university president defines the term “directory information.” It would be possible for the university to strike e-mail addresses from its definition of directory information.

Lazenby said that the Oregon Administrative Rule governing PSU’s definition of directory information was last amended in 2002.

“I’m not going to speculate about the thought processes behind these rules,” Lazenby wrote. “I wasn’t here. But it is certainly possible for students to make requests for changes in the administrative rules.”

Kathi Ketcheson, director of the Office of Institutional Research and Planning, said that students ought to pay attention to the fine print in university documents.

“You have to be vigilant,” she said. “[PSU is] a public institution and we have some public information which we have to give out unless you say no. We all just have to read.”

Who has requested your information?

It’s not possible for students to discover who has asked for their individual contact information–PSU doesn’t keep records about that type of request.

However, the university does keep some records about large-scale requests for directory information.

Ketcheson said that the university receives a handful of large-scale requests each year. This year, large batches of student directory information were requested by: the Army; Wells Fargo; a loan consolidator named Direct Student Service; and Signature Announcements, a Florida-based vendor of graduation memorabilia.

Student and alumni contact information is also distributed through the Portland State Alumni Association.

The Alumni Association has relationships with four “affinity” partners who offer services to Portland State alumni, said Pat Squire, the assistant vice president for Alumni Relations. Those four partners are Bank of America, which offers a PSU Alumni co-branded credit card; the luxury travel program Alumni Holidays; Chase Financial Services, a loan consolidation service; and the Alumni Insurance Administration, which offers short-term medical insurance to recent graduates.

Squire said the Alumni Association’s relationship with those sources is their sole source of revenue. “Most of these services provide a benefit to students,” Squire said.

Squire also said that the Alumni Association’s partners are not allowed to resell alumni contact information.

While requesting FERPA privacy from the university requires a written nondisclosure request, opting out of alumni-related mailings can be done with a phone call.

“We get calls from people who do want to opt out and that’s perfectly normal,” Squire said. “A lot of universities do pretty heavy marketing…we try to be careful about that.”