President’s message on student safety and privacy

By Robert Boos
Posted February 3, 2017

President’s message on student safety and privacy

To all Metropolitan State community:President Virginia "Ginny" Arthur

President Virginia “Ginny” Arthur

On Tuesday, I wrote to you about the recent White House executive order restricting immigration and travel. Today, I want to provide additional details about pertinent systems and procedures already in place to provide for the community’s safety and security.

One of our first priorities, now more than ever, is the security of our students’ personal and educational information. Therefore:

• We will fully protect our student record information in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA);
• We will not turn over student information to immigration enforcement authorities unless required by a subpoena or court order;
• We will not request or gather information about students’ citizenship or immigration status in the course of providing educational or other services or in connection with public safety activities except as required for financial aid or tuition policies.

We are a public, urban university with free access by all. However, if asked to allow immigration authorities to enter campus properties and buildings we will only agree if a proper court order or warrant is presented.

Metropolitan State’s data practices are governed by FERPA and the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA). That means that student data (beyond routine directory information on which students have not placed a “hold”) may be released in only two cases: when a student signs a release form, or “to comply with a judicial order or lawfully-issued subpoena.”

To fully protect the educational privacy rights of our students I am asking all employees to be cautious if asked for information about a student that does not appear to be necessary to the questioner’s job duties. All employees are empowered to decline to answer those questions, to bring their supervisor into the conversation and to refer the questioner to Metropolitan State’s designated Data Practices Act Compliance Official, our Registrar, Daryl Johnson.

Any official request for protected information must be made to our Compliance Official. That means that, if any faculty member or other employee receives a request for data about a student (from anyone other than an employee with a legitimate need to know), that party should be referred to the Registrar.

It is extremely important, if you receive a subpoena or a court order requesting information about a student, that you contact Daryl immediately. There are provisions for challenging subpoenas or court orders, but the time frame is quite short.

Metropolitan State University has always welcomed and embraced applicants without regard to nationality or immigration status. Two implications of that principle are that (1) no University employee, including security staff, will inquire about students’ immigration status, and (2) within the limits of federal and state law, the University and its employees will not assist in federal immigration enforcement efforts.

Faculty and staff can contribute to students’ security and assurance that they are in a safe place by working to inform themselves about current policies and resources. I encourage departments, service units, and individuals to share useful information with each other. Four of many examples are:

• The Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s “Post-Election Talking Points and Resources”
• Resource page on DACA for International Student advisors
• Resources on the websites of NAFSA: Association of International Educators
• NASPA | Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education

The same principles apply to our employees. The Chief Human Resource Officer, Deb Gehrke, serves as the Information Compliance Officer for employees.

Many in the university community oppose the way the Executive Order has been developed and implemented, and I implore the President to reconsider his action. In the same vein, yesterday I joined many higher education leaders by signing on to the letter from the American Council on Education to the new Director of Homeland Security (text and signatories here).

I appreciate the time that many colleagues have taken to get in touch with me and members of our senior leadership team. I am a firm believer that “all of us are wiser than any of us,” and I welcome suggestions and insights that can increase the sense of safety and freedom that promotes optimal learning experiences.

Members of the leadership team will contribute to this series of messages in the days ahead, as we seek to respond to the wide variety of questions that our current situation naturally raises.

My commitment to the safety and security of all students and employees is unwavering.

Sincerely,

President Virginia “Ginny” Arthur, JD
Metropolitan State University