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Florida Law May Protect College Students' Privacy

from University Wire

An existing state law may stop University of Florida alcohol records from going home to parents.

The recent change in a federal student privacy act that allows parent notification when students violate alcohol or drug rules may not change anything for Florida universities, because an existing state law guarantees more privacy than the amended national law.

The federal Higher Education Act was revised in October, allowing university officials to call the parents of any students involved in drug or alcohol incidents.

But state law has not changed, and Rob Pritchard, UF Associate General Counsel, said that could mean Florida universities will not be able to use the new federal provision to crack down on student alcohol and drug abuse.

The federal Buckley Amendment, also known as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and part of the Higher Education Act, ensures students privacy in their educational records, such as grades and discipline.

State law does the same.

Both laws have a loophole, however, that has allowed parents of students who are financially dependent on them to request their records.

The new provision expands that loophole on the federal level because it applies to any student, financially dependent or not.

Since state law is more stringent because it applies only to financially dependent students, Pritchard said that one may be the governing law.

Student Affairs Dean Art Sandeen recently asked Pritchard to look into the issue and determine UF's legal rights.

Pritchard said he has not finished researching the issue yet, and a final decision has not been made.

"A decision could be forthcoming in about a month," he said.

Since President Clinton signed the new version of the federal act, several universities in Delaware and Virginia already have taken advantage of the change.

Bonnie Hulburt, dean of students at Radford University in Virginia, said her university has notified the parents of 15 offenders this fall.

Hulburt said the parental notification is part of a broad effort to decrease binge drinking, initiated after five Virginia college students died in alcohol-related deaths last year.

"We've had nothing but favorable reaction," Hulburt said, adding that alcohol violations on her campus have gone down.

As a result, she said, so have the number of assaults, damage incidents and disorderly conduct violations by students.

Radford's parental notification policy applies only to freshmen who are repeat offenders, Hulburt said.

"We've increased the penalties," Hulbert said. "There is a $100 assessment for any student alcohol or drug violation."

That money goes toward paying for the educational seminars student violators are required to take.

UF is trying to beef up its own penalties for such violations but might not be able to include the parental notification.

A committee was formed over the Summer to study how UF could curtail the number of student alcohol and drug incidents.

Head of Judicial Affairs John Dalton is heading up that committee and said he expects the group to offer recommendations to UF administrators by March.

"We're very concerned about the student's right to privacy," said Dalton.

[Independent Florida Alligator, Dec. 4]

Yale senior stabbed to death

Yale University senior Suzanne Jovin '99 was found stabbed to death about a mile north of the University's central campus, at approximately 10 p.m. Friday night, New Haven police officials said.

Police responded at 9:58 p.m. yesterday to reports of a woman bleeding, according to a New Haven Police press release. Officers discovered Jovin, 21, suffering from multiple stab wounds.

Police said they had not determined whether the stabbing had occurred at the location where Jovin was found.

The medical examiner's office confirmed the cause of death as a multiple stab-wound homicide.

"New Haven police are uncertain of motive, and have leads that are being followed up," said Judy Mongillo, New Haven Police public information officer.

Michael Kuczkowski, press secretary for the New Haven mayor's office, said early indications showed this was not a random event.

Yale Chief of Police James Perrotti said six New Haven Police Department detectives and three Yale detectives had been assigned to the Jovin case.

Sources close to the investigation said Jovin returned keys to a car at Phelps Gate at 9:30 p.m. that evening, half an hour before she was found.

Jovin, a political science and international relations major from Goettingen, Germany, was a coordinator of Best Buddies, a volunteer mentoring program for adults with mental retardation. Earlier in the evening, she and group members held a pizza-making party for the adults at Trinity Lutheran Church, at Orange and Wall streets, said Dan Koehler.

"She did so much to make sure everybody had a good time [at the party]," Koehler said. After the event ended around 8:30, she left in a car with another volunteer, Koehler said.

Jovin had signed out the car from Yale's student-run center for community service and social justice earlier in the day for the event. "The car was in the lot and the keys were returned," Dwight Hall General Secretary Pamela Bisbee-Simonds said. The death is "a tragedy and we're heartbroken."

A Yale School of Forestry professor who lives on Edgehill Street and asked to remain anonymous said the area was fairly populated last evening.

"I was walking my dogs at about 9:30 p.m. down that street," he said. "Last night it was so warm, there were just a lot of people on the street walking dogs. Nothing unusual was going on there." University officials have contacted Jovin's sister, and are working through the day to reach additional family members, said Tom Conroy, Yale's acting director of public affairs.

Hours after students read about Jovin's death in e-mails from their college masters and deans, friends and classmates gathered in the Davenport Common Room to hear the University's response to last night's tragedy.

A panel of University officers and officials explained facts known at the time and offered reassurances to the visibly distraught group. Approximately 100 students packed the room, most sitting on the floor in front of the panel.

Last night's killing was the second of a Yale student in New Haven this decade.

President Richard Levin urged students to "lean on each other" and use the resources of the Yale community to help them through their grief.

"Going forward is going to be difficult," Levin said. "You're going to want to talk, you're going to want to weep, and you're going to want to be angry. Do it."

Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead expressed his disbelief that such a tragic event could occur on a corner only blocks away from his own residence. While Brodhead said he did not know Jovin personally, he said this tragedy warns us not to take for granted the people sitting next to us for dinner.

"Another part of your education - unfortunately and completely involuntary on the part of the school you attend - is events like this," Brodhead said.

Perrotti said the incident occurred in the jurisdiction of the NHPD, but Yale detectives will be interviewing students to reconstruct Jovin's last hours.

"It's pretty much New Haven now," Perrotti said. "Obviously, we're working shoulder-to-shoulder with them, and we want to solve the case."

Representatives from University Health Services and the Chaplain's Office said they will make themselves available for counseling.

Some students were quick to follow Levin's advice. As the meeting broke, students embraced one another and wept.

News of the murder also disrupted this weekend's annual December meeting of the Yale Corporation.

"We're despondent and horrified," said Corporation trustee Jose Cabrenas. "We did conduct the general meeting, but under the pall of [last night's tragedy]."

While Levin urged the Corporation to continue with the day's schedule, the situation drew University Secretary Linda Lorimer away from the meetings for much of the morning. Corporation trustees said they spent much of the morning discussing the event and the agenda was obviously distracted.

[Yale Daily News, Dec. 7]

ACLU opposes MSU crime policy

A controversial recommendation from the Alcohol Action Team has come under fire from the Lansing chapter of the ACLU as well as Michigan State University's undergraduate student government.

At its Thursday meeting, the ACLU passed a motion formally opposing the proposed Off-Campus Felony Conviction Policy.

The proposed policy would allow campus judiciary boards latitude to punish offenders of felonies committed off campus such as arson, rape and murder with anything from probation to expulsion from the university.

Henry Silverman, president of the Lansing chapter of the ACLU, said students should be seen as independent citizens who have no legal ties to MSU.

"Students are members of the larger society and when they break the law, they should be subject to society's laws, not some college code, because the law should punish a person and not the university," he said. "(The policy) is also very vague and doesn't go into how it's triggered in the first place."

Silverman said he failed to see the point of the measure, saying the only possible reason for its implementation would be to pacify disgruntled East Lansing residents and officials who have a bad taste in their mouths after May's Munn field riot.

"A student convicted of a felony won't be around to be punished anyway, they're going to be in jail," he said. "If the only reason to have this is to make East Lansing feel better, then that's really silly."

MSU President M. Peter McPherson defended the proposed policy, saying its creation would put powers already existing within the university on the books.

"The president has the authority to take such action in extreme cases," he said. "This is helpful because it formalizes what can be done."

McPherson said Silverman should have offered his input this summer when the group was still considering its recommendations.

"I don't see why Dr. Silverman didn't say anything before this," McPherson said. "They never asked to testify about this."

At its meeting on Tuesday night, MSU's Academic Assembly will introduce a bill that will also oppose the implementation of the proposed code, said Jamie Czekai, chairperson of the assembly.

Czekai was a member of the action team from May through October and did not sign the team's final list of recommendations in part because of his opposition to the inclusion of the code.

"I was opposed to it when I was on the action team because I don't agree with changing Article 1.4 of the Academic Freedom Report, which says that if a felony or criminal act occurs off-campus, the law will handle it," he said.

[The State News, Dec. 7]