UT Directory Should Be Opt-In, Not Opt-Out

Valentine’s Day may be over, but secret admirers are still among us.

Whether she’s the girl in your biology class with the bright blue eyes, or he’s the RTF major who went on a really bad date with your roommate, most Longhorns have at least one person in mind when they think of love or attraction. And that’s not a bad thing! Relationships and crushes are a natural part of life.

There are many ways to learn about that special someone with whom you want to connect. Facebook, Twitter, and even Canvas are regularly used to glean information about their interests, majors, or hobbies. We all hope that crushes are pursued with the best of intentions and in an ethical manner. But what about when tools like the UT Directory are used?

The University’s online directory lists faculty and student names, personal email addresses, school and college, parking permits, classifications such as senior or junior, and even office contact information if someone is a student worker. The directory’s frequently-asked-questions section details its purpose as, “[helping] to facilitate the research, teaching, learning and service missions of the university community.”

The directory has almost certainly helped professional and academic collaboration between students and staff on the Forty Acres. However, privacy and security concerns outweigh the directory’s benefits.

Many major-specific courses are not located in their respective college buildings — Liberal Arts classes can be taught in the UTC, after all. And yet, information about a person’s college or major can help predatory attempts to stalk. If a bad actor knows a person’s major or college, they could potentially narrow down places in which their intended victim studies or socializes. Additionally, publicly-listed personal email addresses make cyber-stalking easier to commit and threatening messages easier to send.

Our campus’ Spring Semester 2017 Cultivating Learning and Safe Environment (CLASE) study found that 22 percent of female undergraduates on our campus experienced stalking. Over half of the victims attended the same institution as the perpetrator.

Promoting discussions around sexual assault and sexual violence prevention are crucial, but we do a disservice to victims if we ignore equally important safety issues on the Forty Acres. We must change tools and procedures that may contribute to these crimes. The UT Directory is one such tool that could be slightly modified but result in greater ease of mind for vulnerable groups.

Nevertheless, a public directory can be a tool for good. The ability to look up a friend’s email to send them a link is convenient! Knowing a classmate works in the Sanger Learning Center is helpful when determining who to ask for help on a lab report. But students should need to voluntarily participate in this service, easily.

Information can be currently restricted through an archaic web form on UT Direct. The process is lengthy, convoluted and intimidating. Students privacy rights’ are not clearly explained.

Students — and victims — deserve a process for information privacy that is clear and articulate. An “opt-in” option when first registering for classes or signing the plethora of paperwork during orientation is a better alternative.

People who want their major, email address, and more kept private deserve a better system. And those who want to offer their information for easier communication and collaboration should have the right to do so. And those who want to connect with a cute girl from class should only be able to do so if she opts-in.

Categories: Campus

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