BSU accidentally sends email to students, violating a federal law

WCRD News Director|Brittney Ermon

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Ball State sophomore Adam, who wishes to remain anonymous, opened his email on Jan.10 to find he was on academic probation for Spring 2017, but didn’t expect what he found next.

Attached to the email was a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with the first and last name of students on probation. In addition, it had their BSU ID number, email, phone number, GPA, cohort and class.

“I was honestly shocked,” Adam said. “When I saw that I had everyone’s information in my inbox, I knew someone had made a big mistake.”

Adam wasn’t the only student who received the email. The university says it was sent to the 59 students who were also on probation.

The U.S. Department of Education confirmed this incident violates The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

According to the U.S. Department of Education, this federal law protects the privacy of student education records. It says generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record.

However, Ball State Chief Communications Officer Joan Todd explained sending the email was simply a human error.

She said the email was supposed to contain a reminder to students about different sessions to help them with their academic progress. Instead, she said the retention office inadvertently sent an attachment with the entire list of students.

“That’s obviously not what was supposed to happen and the university is very sorry that it happened,” Todd said. “They will certainly take measures to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” she said.

Even still, sophomore Adam said the university should have been more careful with his details.

“I realize it was a mistake but at the same time, it’s my personal information and it’s out there,” he said. “I don’t know what people are going to do with it.”

Todd said the university will contact each student individually and ask them to delete the email and not share the information.