Mon. Oct 26th, 2020

The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

UMW community expresses concern over staff access to student information

4 min read

Some UMW staff, including student employees, are able to access student information such as grades, class schedules, and addresses. | Pexels

by CHEYENNE KERN

Staff Writer

Some members of the UMW community are concerned that the school permits all faculty to see all students’ grades and that some student employees can see other students’ cumulative GPAs and personal information.

Carina Martin, who graduated in 2019, worked as an office assistant at Residence Life and said that she could also see student class schedules and addresses. Martin said that she had to sign a confidentiality agreement when she started and had to get administrative approval to use that information.

Some Fitness Center employees recalled an incident in which they were able to see some student information such as cumulative GPA.

“It’s weird,” said senior international relations major and Fitness Center employee Kyle Lehmann. “There was a Google spreadsheet drive that had students cumulative GPAs, I’d like to say from Spring 2019 at least. It just showed up one day at work.”

In order to access this information, Martin said she had to be logged on to a work computer at the Office of Residence Life, while Lehmann said he had to be signed into the Fitness Center’s Google Drive.

“We had a study going on about how frequent gym usage led to higher GPAs so it was looking at students who frequently came into the gym,” said former Fitness Center employee Ellora Larsen, who graduated in fall of 2019.

Assistant director of Campus Recreation, Brittanie Naff, confirmed this information.

“In spring 2019 a student intern studied the correlation between participation in campus recreation activities and academic success, as data from the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) supports that participation is correlated to higher grade point averages,” said Naff.

Naff further specified what information student Fitness Center employees can access.

“In general, they see basic information such as name, major, academic year, summary of facility visits and membership type,” she said.

She also clarified that the information they were able to see during this study consisted of, “mainly all the information that they have for your Eagle One.” She said that this information was not accessed unless the employee clicked directly on a student’s profile, which was only done if someone’s Eagle One was not working properly.

Students also voiced discomfort with the policy.

“It feels odd that [student employees] can look at my grades whenever they want. It just seems like an invasion of privacy,” said senior psychology major Simon Maybee. “Parents are not allowed to see grades unless the student gives permission, so where is the permission for all campus staff? I believe that professors and registrar staff should have access to a student’s grades, but not the library or gym staff.”

Senior psychology major, Katie Lawrence, said she did not know that all faculty had access to view all grades and/or GPA. Lawrence said that she doesn’t see an issue with professors having the ability to see her grades, but that “it doesn’t seem necessary for any other [staff], especially student [staff], to have access to this.”

“I’m actually not aware of this as an official ‘policy,’ although I do know that I am able to access a student’s past grades if I need to,” said an anonymous UMW professor.

The professor added that this information is not easily accessible, as looking up a student in Banner is rather tedious, and pointed out that professors do not see grades for other classes in Canvas, where most grading and class organization happens.

According to the professor, the information is useful for informal advising with students.

“The pros of being able to access a student’s grading history primarily relate to our ability to help them in an advising context… I have many students who come to me informally for advice on applying to graduate school and reviewing their transcript with them allows me to give them a realistic sense of their chances, what to focus on in personal statements in terms of highlighting strengths or explaining weakness, etc.”

Psychology professor and Academic Services Faculty Fellow, Debra Steckler, was surprised at the notion of any professor having access to view all grades and student employees having the ability to view GPA, and expressed that she would be surprised if any professor would use other grades to influence a student’s grade in their particular class.

“I don’t know of any professor that would do that. I really don’t. If a student does well in your class, you’re going to give them the grade. If a student does poorly in your class, you are going to give them the grade.”

Steckler also recalled that when she became a Faculty Fellow in Academic Services in 2014 or 2015, she had to ask the registrar to give her access to students’ transcripts so she could advise them and these transcripts were “only used to see advisees.”

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