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Katherine Haley Will
Submitted by Don Stacey
Mar. 29, 2005

Alma Mater As Big Brother
By Katherine Haley Will
Tuesday, March 29, 2005; Page A15

A proposal by the Education Department would force every college and university in America to report all their students' Social Security numbers and other information about each individual -- including credits earned, degree plan, race and ethnicity, and grants and loans received -- to a national databank. The government will record every student, regardless of whether he or she receives federal aid, in the databank.

The government's plan is to track students individually and in full detail as they complete their post-secondary education. The threat to our students' privacy is of grave concern, and the government has not satisfactorily explained why it wants to collect individual information.

Researchers at the Education Department say this mammoth project would give them better information on graduation rates and what students pay for college. Perhaps this would be interesting information to collect, but at what cost to individual privacy? At what cost in time and effort to the government and the educational institutions? As a college president who has spent her career in higher education, I know that a system is already in place to collect statistics. This system meets the government's need to inform public policy without intruding on students' privacy. Since 1992 every college or university whose students receive federal financial aid has been required to submit summary data on enrollment, student aid, graduation rates and other matters via the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

Under the proposal that will soon be submitted to Congress, instead of aggregate statistics, colleges and universities would be required to feed data on each student to the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics. Should an institution refuse, the government could take away federal grants, loans and work-study funds from every student at the college, a penalty that would fall on students in need while leaving more affluent students unaffected.

Such a proposal is unacceptable, and we should work hard to defeat it. The creation of a gigantic database containing educational records and other personal data on millions would be a costly and troubling assault on privacy. This information could all too easily be shared with other government agencies or even with the private sector.
v The potential for abuse of power and violation of civil liberties is immense. The database would begin with 15 million-plus records of students in the first year and grow. These student records would be held by the federal government for at least the life of the student.

Collecting and compiling data for such a system would increase college and university costs for hardware, staffing and training. Such costs would join surging health care and energy expenses in pushing tuitions up. Federal officials have shown no compelling public policy need that outweighs Americans' basic expectations of privacy. The Education Department's proposal to gather unprecedented amounts of personal data on individual students is dangerous and poorly conceived. Congress must reject this measure.

The writer is president of Gettysburg College.

Original Article

Tracy Coogan
Legislative Assistant
Congressman John F. Tierney (MA-06)
Sign up for Congressman Tierney's E-Newsletter

Subject: Check out especially Chip Pitts Seeking Truth from justice

Another set of fine counter argument links...check out especially Chip Pitts Seeking Truth from justice which was written after a debate much like our own [Rockport's] LWV debate last summer. Looks like this AG and our own were reading from the same page.

Debating the Justice Department
In August 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft directed the United States Attorneys around the country to lobby for and defend the Patriot Act and related legislation. As a result, U.S. Attorneys all over the country have held public forums defending the legislation. That same month the Justice Department launched their new website defending the Patriot Act, Prepare yourself with these tools to stand up to the Justice Department publicly and dispell their myths.

    a.. Responses from the Center for Democracy and Technology and Z Magazine to Department of Justice's defense of Patriot Act.
    b.. Chip Pitts' response to claims made by a U.S. Attorney about the Patriot Act, Seeking Truth From Justice.
    c.. People for the American Way's report on President Bush's misrepresentation of the Patriot Act
    d.. BORDC's Suggestions for responding to Massachusetts' U.S. Attorney's form letter defending USA PATRIOT Act
    e.. Senator Patrick Leahy's statement at the June 8 U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Hearing, which includes a laundry list of critiques of John Ashcroft and the Department of Justice.

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