University Struggles with Confidentiality, as Students List Parent Phone Numbers

Grace James
News Editor

Cover photo of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception courtesy of Sean Newhouse 

University administrators are running into a problem involving student phone numbers that is challenging the ability of the school to keep student issues confidential.

Every student has a digital file of their information, which includes a student cell phone number to call in the case of emergencies. Many students have put down a parent phone number instead of their own, which the university is forced to call if it is trying to reach the student about a serious issue.

Several instances have occurred where an administrator will attempt to reach a student, only to reach the parent instead. Since the administrator is unable to tell the parents the real reason for the call, parents often panic on the other line and hang up to call the student.

This can put the student in a difficult situation, especially if he or she does not want to reveal the situation. Students can also believe that parents were called on purpose, breaching their privacy.

“It’s just a mess of a situation,” said Debra Monk, associate dean of students. “This year has been worse than I have ever seen it.”

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Reasons for the university to contact the student privately could include concerns for mental health, dealing with a traumatic event such as loss of a significant relation or sexual assault. Sometimes, the parents can be a part of the problem itself, making it even more important to be able to reach the student, Monk said.

UD commonly receives word of the student issue or traumatic event through the police, or by those close to the student. Afterwards, the dean of students office will reach out to make sure the student feels safe, and to see if they need medical attention or help from the police. This is where the situation becomes problematic if a parent number is listed instead of the student’s.

To try and determine the scope of the issue with the student records, the staff at the dean of students office performed a “random hit” of phone calls to see if the phone number listed on Porches belonged to the student. They found that approximately 10 percent of the phone numbers belonged to a parent.

Email is also used to contact the student, although it is sent as a follow-up after calling first.

Monk encouraged all students to double-check their information on Porches to make sure that the listed contact under the “Student Cell Number” is their own phone number in case of an emergency. At the top of the Porches homepage, there is a tab that says “my account.” There, you can double-check the listed phone number.

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