While searching through a box of mementoes, I came upon my student ID from the University of California, Berkeley. Immediately, I was struck by two things: my very youthful face in the photograph and my Social Security number used as my student identification number.
Safeguarding identity was not an issue when I was in college in the 1960s and ’70s. In fact, we were routinely asked to provide our Social Security numbers instead of our names as a way to ensure privacy. I can recall professors who posted exam grades on the wall outside a classroom door, identifying each student “anonymously” by Social Security number to avoid embarrassment for those who did not do well.
Such practice would result in much more than embarrassment today. We have a duty to protect our students’ personal information with as much vigor as we protect our own identities from cybercrime. One way is the process we use for student IDs and email addresses, both assigned different random numbers that are not related in any way to Social Security numbers.
Another measure came about when the practice of printing a student phone book was discontinued several years ago. In its place, we host an online directory with accessibility limited to faculty, staff and students who must sign in with their Husky user ID and password. The system provides enough information for the campus community to communicate while resisting efforts by scammers and telemarketers.
By law and by conscience we are bound to take measures to protect student identity, but we can only go so far. Students must take responsibility for their personal information, where they share it and with whom. And as members of a generation that uses plastic more often than cash they must remember that their account numbers and PINs are vulnerable and should not be shared.
Despite our vigilance, any of us may become the victim of cybercrime. Following our experts’ advice could add an extra layer of security for us … and an extra layer of difficulty for those who would steal our identity.
President, Bloomsburg University
Editor’s note: BU President David Soltz regularly offers his opinions on issues in higher education and his vision for Bloomsburg University at http://bupresident.blogspot.com.