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The Blue & Gray Press | September 23, 2018

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New Virginia law impacts UMW email policy

New Virginia law impacts UMW email policy

By HEATHER STROTHER

Staff Writer

With the start of the new semester, students found a change on the search bar option of the UMW website. Virginia has added a new law for universities that has impacted what information they are allowed to publicly display.

According to the UMW website, the new law is called House Bill 1. It states that colleges are now unable to add students’ contact information for the public eye to grasp under the exception in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) or the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This includes personal phone numbers, email addresses or home address.

Voted 38-2 in Virginia House, this method for students’ privacy was enacted into law July 1, 2018. This law does not only include personal information, but also school-given email addresses. For students who feel comfortable with allowing the school to give out their contact information, they must respond to be opted in.

The University of Mary Washington holds the Opt-In option under the Students Information System on their website. Once the tab is opened students may give consent to the school with a few clicks. Another option is for students to send a clear stated email to a UMW employee allowing for their information to be public as well. The message must be sent from a UMW email address.

“I did not know about House Bill 1,” said junior Kaitlin Bailey. “I do think it is a great step in the direction protecting the privacy and safety of college students by giving us the choice to disclose our own information.”

Others, like junior political science major Teylore Sturdivant, view this law as harmless.

“If someone needs to contact me they can ask for my phone number because I usually give it,” said Sturdivant. She went on to say that she had not used the tool since the beginning of her freshman year and will not miss it. “I think it’s great because personal information is not out there, however, I still think their school email should be.”

Jessica Elkins, a theatre major who works as the Audience Services Assistant for Klein Theatre, finds this law to be detrimental for schools across the state.

“I was unaware of the law, to begin with,” said Elkins. She added that she has frequently used the school’s search tool to find students in her college experience.

“Getting in touch with volunteers for shows is a key task for my job,” said Elkins.  “It would help me a lot if people opt-in because it makes communication extremely doable.”

Faculty and staff are not affected by the new law. University-affiliated email and office phone numbers will be listed online or given over the phone. Personal information outside of the college will not be listed unless a professor or UMW employee feels comfortable doing so.

Further information can be found on UMW’s website under HB1 FAQ’s.

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