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Registrar Accidentally Sent Grades to Parents


Associate News Editor

A computer problem caused spring term grade reports for 197 undergraduate students to be mailed to their home addresses despite the fact that they had registered another grade report address, it was revealed yesterday.

Those affected by the glitch will be receiving new grade reports at their grade report address soon, said Constance C. Scribner, associate registrar for records and administration. "We're thinking that address will still be good."

Normally, spring term grade reports are mailed to students' term addresses except for undergraduates who live within the U.S. and Canada, according to the MITBulletin. They receive their grade reports at their home addresses, unless they specify otherwise.

"I think it's a serious problem"said Professor of Urban Studies and Planning Joseph Ferreira Jr., who chairs the Committee on Privacy. "Icertainly expect that it is something that won't happen again."

Computer glitch delays reports

"There were some problems with disk space, so we had to spend some time clearing out disk space,"Scribner said. When the reports were finally printed, the grade report addresses had expired.

Temporary addresses, including grade report addresses, have expiration dates associated with them in the MIT Student Information System database, which holds the WebSIS data. "It's invisible to the student,"Scribner said.

Miscommunication between the programmers of MITSISand the registrar's office led to the reports being printed after the expiration date. "We thought [the addresses were valid] until midnight of that date instead of 12:01am of that date," Scribner said. As a result, the grade report addresses expired before the reports were printed. Grade reports were then sent to home addresses rather than the special grade address.

Although the reports were mailed several weeks ago, the registrar's office had not received any complaints until The Tech contacted it during the preparation of this article. "If we had known about this, we simply would not have sent them out," Scribner said.

The registrar's office has decided to move back the expiration date of the grade report addresses to prevent the problem from recurring. "We knew we were getting close to the expiration date and we decided to move it back,"Scribner said.

Privacy serious concern at MIT

MIThas had a long-standing privacy policy favoring student consent over parent access, Ferreira said. "The issue of who gets the grades is an issue of dealing with the student and requiring their consent to send the grades to the parent."

The Committee on Privacy, which serves as a forum for discussion of privacy concerns involving databases and all other sources of information, holds discussions with various groups that collect information, including SIS. "We aren't a judiciary body at all," Ferreira said. We don't render judgements on privacy decisions, he added.

"It seems like there have been a lot of changes in [MITSIS], and the privacy concerns are real ones," Ferreira said. "This sounds like something that steps could be taken to make sure doesn't happen."

The privacy concerns over the misaddressing of grade reports are serious, Ferreira said. "This is a serious issue; they made a mistake. They need to make sure that the problem is caught quickly and corrected."

Problems not related to WebSIS

The glitch that caused the misaddressing of grade reports was not related to WebSIS, which was inaugurated in May, Scribner said. The problem was caused solely in the MITSISsystem, which is now being revised.

The WebSISteam will update its software to show the grade report address through the revised expiration date, said Jagruti S. Patel '97, who leads the student access team for student services reengineering.

The WebSISsoftware currently shows the grade report address for the summer term, Patel said. "The grade report address is term-based"and must be re-entered each term, she said.