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MIT Asks Residents For Permission To Release Birth Dates For Cambridge Census

Last Wednesday, Jan. 30, MIT Housing e-mailed all residents of on-campus housing to ask for written permission to include their birth dates in census information sent to the Cambridge Election Commission.

According to Linda L. Patton, assistant director of off-campus housing, MIT usually provides other information about campus housing residents to the CEC, for instance residents’ full names and addresses. MIT’s Committee on Privacy has approved the data collection.

MIT needs students’ written consent to release birth dates because of provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Patton said. She said that with or without students’ consent, the rest of their information will be sent to the city. Patton said that Harvard University provides birth date information to the city for all of their residents.

The city also ties voter registration to census data, so people whose name and address data are not included are not eligible to vote. Patton said that in the past, mistakes or omissions in data reporting have affected the voting eligibility of housemasters and graduate resident tutors.

Patton said that MIT does not provide any directory information to the federal census, but that MIT facilitates the distribution of information about the federal census to students. She added that MIT's legal department last reviewed the Institute’s role in the city census about a year ago.

—Quentin Smith