Some think NU directory makes too much info public

Lauren Mogannam

Veronica Roth is pissed.

The Weinberg junior is sitting on her bed in a South Campus dorm in an unspecified room. She doesn’t want you to know where she lives.

In fact, she doesn’t want anyone to know where she lives, except friends. She spent 10 minutes Monday night removing her home phone and room number from Northwestern’s online directory.

The 20-year-old was unaware how much personal information was on Northwestern’s online directory until her roommate told her to look herself up.

“It would be child’s play for people with bad intentions to do their dirty deeds,” Roth said.

The NU online directory provides the university community with contact information, including school and year, e-mail address, full name and residence hall and room number.

“For on-campus purposes we have to figure out a way for students to get hold of students, and faculty to get hold of students,” said Patrick Martin, Northwestern’s registrar. “It follows the typical phone book approach to listing not only the individual’s name, but (his or her) phone number and address as well.”

NU follows guidelines set forth by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, Martin said. FERPA defined what is considered confidential and what is considered public, or directory, information.

Martin said the university is allowed to put any public information in the directory, including local and home addresses, telephone, e-mail address, expected graduation date, weight, height and a photograph of students taken for university purposes.

However, Martin said NU does not list everything allowed by law because it’s not necessary.

“Would you want your weight on there for everyone to see?” he said.

Unlike confidential information, public information can be given out to third parties without a student’s permission.

“Just because it is defined as public, doesn’t mean we make it a habit to give it out to just anyone,” Martin said. “We will release information, without a student’s consent, depending on who’s asking.”

Even though information may be defined as public, Martin said students have the ability and right to withhold it as set forth and defined by FERPA legislation.

Wendy Woodward, director of technology support services for NU Information Technology, said NUIT pulls information from the Registrar’s Office and displays the information according to FERPA and NU standards.

“The information displayed is based on a university decision about what would be classified as directory information within the institution,” she said.

Students also have the option to edit the amount or content of information displayed, Woodward said.

Even so, some students said they feel uncomfortable with the fact that the information is available from the beginning.

“Since we were shown in Essential NU how to protect ourselves, especially on Facebook, it is disappointing to know that NU has a vehicle for people to find out information you don’t want out there,” said Communication freshman Lauren Sher.

Some students believe the information on NU’s online directory is beneficial.

Kevin Bonney said the directory could be useful when one needs to locate a student.

“If you need to work on something with someone and forget where they live, it is easy to look them up,” said the Weinberg sophomore. “Plus, I am confident enough in dorm security.”

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