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September 14, 2001

School ID numbers replace Social Security numbers

by Linda Charles
Faculty class lists look a little different this semester. Gone are student Social Security numbers, and in their place are university ID numbers. The change, says registrar Kathy Jones, is a response to concerns of some faculty and students about privacy issues.

"There were issues raised last year about the inappropriate use of Social Security numbers," Jones said. "Some students weren't so happy about having to use their numbers for submitting class-related materials and for posting of grades."

Both Social Security and university ID numbers are considered confidential information. But misuse of Social Security numbers can have far greater ramifications, Jones said, since they are used for things like credit card applications.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (federal legislation on students' educational records) allows a partial Social Security number to be used to post test results and grades. However, Jones said, a few faculty were posting complete Social Security numbers on grade lists.

Only the last four digits of university ID numbers should be posted in public. (Additional digits may be used in case of duplication in the class, but the fewer numbers used, the better, Jones said.)

"A better idea," Jones said, "is to use something completely different from the university ID numbers. Instructors could have students pick what they want to use."

Even then, instructors must make sure that students don't pick their full Social Security or university ID numbers, or other information that federal legislation designates as private.

This fall is the first time university ID numbers have been used on class lists instead of Social Security numbers.

"I expect things will be painful this fall because this is new," she added. "Students may not realize we made the change. Faculty need to tell students to use their university ID numbers instead of their Social Security numbers. But I don't expect much of a problem by next semester."

All students will receive e-mail notices of the change, Jones said.

The nine-digit university ID number is the middle segment of the number on the ISUCard.

Jones added, "Students need to know what number to use. Faculty need to know what number to use. And they need to match."

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