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ASUA Notebook 04/05/23: Senate defends professor reprimanded for FERPA violation

Want+an+inside+look+at+the+University+of+Arizonas+student+government%3F+Read+the+Daily+Wildcats+Associated+Students+of+the+University+of+Arizona+notebooks%2C+which+recap+the+ASUA+Senates+weekly+meetings.
Jasmine Ma
Want an inside look at the University of Arizona’s student government? Read the Daily Wildcat’s Associated Students of the University of Arizona notebooks, which recap the ASUA Senate’s weekly meetings.

During its meeting on Wednesday, April 5, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona Senate voted to send a letter to the UA Faculty Senate in support of a professor under investigation for violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

FERPA protects students’ right to privacy by prohibiting the release of certain student academic records without the prior written consent of the student. Examples of protected information include GPA, grades and exam scores, birth date and religious affiliation.

Sonja Lanehart, a professor of linguistics at the UA, was formally reprimanded for sharing a student’s first name and need for financial support in an internal faculty listserv. Lanehart was doing so in order to help the student graduate.

“A professor was hit with a FERPA violation, and I believe there is currently an investigation because she was trying to help a student get enough funds to basically clear the debt in their bursar’s account so that they can graduate this semester,” said College of Science Sen. Carly Snell.

Snell added that Lanehart shared the information with the written and verbal consent of the student. It was also noted that the student did not file the FERPA complaint.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the senate moved to draft, sign and send a letter of support for Lanehart to the Faculty Senate. It recommends that the Faculty Senate acknowledge Lanehart’s good intentions and calls for educating faculty and staff on the proper documentation required for sharing student information.

“Raising funds to assist students is part of the culture of this institution and we feel it is inappropriate to take negative personnel actions on a faculty member who shares a student’s personal information with the explicit permission of the student,” the letter states.

The letter ends by calling for the FERPA violation to be “immediately and completely” expunged from Lanehart’s personnel file.

Senators voted unanimously to sign and send the letter to the Faculty Senate. 

ASUA also unanimously passed a resolution that authorized the creation and circulation of a campus-wide survey at the beginning of the next academic year. The purpose of the survey is to collect data from students that will inform ASUA’s projects and initiatives.

In an update from the meal plan waiver committee, it was reported that Pell Grant-eligible students will be required to purchase mandatory meal plans next year but will do so at a reduced cost. The discount will apply to the meal plan that affords students seven meal plan swipes per week. Scholarships and other forms of financial assistance will also be available for Pell Grant-eligible students to reduce the cost of attendance.

The senate will meet again next Wednesday, April 12 at 6 p.m. in the Pima room of the Student Union Memorial Center.


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