Andrew (marginoferror) wrote in uw,

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"Just the facts, Ma'am."

Today at work I mentioned to my coworker Rachel something about the upcoming deal with the credit card company, MBNA, to sell our contact information. She was so angry that, after emailing all her friends, she said she would go to the administrative building and ask to speak to someone. I offered to go with.

It took a while, but eventually we ended up in Schmitz hall, in the office of Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Ernest R. Morris. He was mentioned in previous posts on this issue: He is more or less the person organizing the deal. At the least, he is the deal-breaker - if he decides not to support the deal, it doesn’t happen (that is the impression I got from him, anyway).

We were led in to meet Dr. Morris by his helpful student assistant, and Rachel and I got a chance to talk to him about the matter.

According to Dr. Morris, there was an article in the Daily about the issue on November 26th - I just dug it out of the Internet archives, here's a link. The UW Alumni Association already has a business arrangement with MNBA - MNBA provides the UWAA's affinity credit cards. It was through the UWAA that MNBA approached Dr. Morris. He said that he was skeptical about the deal at first, but MBNA agreed to fulfill his requests for the following:

- Information about freshmen would not be given.
- MBNA would sponsor credit education programs.
- The initial limit on the credit cards would be low (Dr. Morris mentioned $500 offhand, but that figure shouldn't be taken as the final word on the issue).
- Telemarketing would not be allowed: Direct mailing and email only.

He also mentioned that MNBA would not give our information to other companies.

The amount of money involved is apparently much more than I expected - $300,000 a year for seven years (which means, of course, that the information of all people enrolled at any time during those seven years will be shared).

Dr. Morris has not yet signed an agreement with the UWAA on this issue, and said that in light of our conversation he will not act until the ASUW has more time to debate the issue. I informed him about the resolution to go to floor Tuesday in front of the Senate, and he said that he would make some further decisions based on the results. He stopped short of saying directly that he would not sign the agreement if the ASUW was in opposition, however.

As has been mentioned here before, MNBA will absolutely not agree to the exchange if students are given an opt-out option other than removing themselves from the student directory. I find this reprehensible, but apparently they are not willing to budge on the issue.

After some length of conversation, we got around to the lack of student awareness about the matter. Dr. Morris said essentially that the Daily was the main method of communication between his office and the students, and that "there is no sure-fire method of informing all of the students". So, I made a direct request of him: That before he actually sign the papers, he email all students, directly, informing them about the impending agreement. He did not agree to this, but gave the impression that he might if the Senate passed a resolution to that effect.

So, when the Senate meets on Tuesday, I intend to request they resolve exactly that. It's too bad we have to give up the student directory as a resource, and it'd be nice if opt-out was an option. However, the amount of money involved is not trivial, and if the MNBA continues with the arrangement after the students who wish to do so withdraw from the directory, the University will get its money without grossly violating its students privacy.

The short version:

What we give them:
The student directory databases (minus freshmen), updated for seven years.

What they give us:
$300,000/year for seven years, divided as follows:
- 50k/year to the UWAA for scholarships
- 125k/year to UWAA for student programs
- 125k/year to UW student affairs (Dr. Morris' department).

Restrictions on them:
- No telemarketing (direct mailing and email only).
- No information about freshmen (at least while they're still freshmen).
- Must sponsor credit education programs.
- Cannot give or sell our information to other parties.

Restrictions on us:
- Cannot allow students to opt-out while remaining in the directory.
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