Required trainings inspire privacy concerns

Students expressed dissatisfaction with mandatory Haven and AlcoholEdu trainings on Sept. 6, when Dean of Students Laura McCollough attended professor Terrence Cole’s History 100 class to answer questions about the program.

According to McCullough, UAF faculty can not review student survey information outside of student ID numbers and completion status. However, a review of the privacy policy of EverFi, the company which provides the Haven and AlcoholEdu programs for UAF, shows that they provide no such guarantee.

EverFi “… may share the information we collect about you with the Authorized Entity [UAF] or its representatives. Such information may include … email address; user ID/identifying tag or username (if applicable); [and] additional aggregated data the Authorized Entity or its representative requests,” according to the company’s privacy policy. These sections of the policy appear to contradict information provided in the company’s FAQ.

These terms also note that information collected from students may be shared with “independent contractors, vendors and suppliers” that assist in developing and hosting the training courses, as well as “affiliated companies” that are not defined. EverFi’s terms of use further stipulate that users may not the company or its affiliates liable for any “use or misuse” of submitted data.

All new students, student advancement participants and student employees are complete Haven AlcoholEdu by Oct. 31. This requirement was mandated on May 10, 2015 by former Interim Chancellor Mike Powers and his cabinet. The mandate was advocated for by Ronnie Houchin of the Admissions Office, Director of the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity Mae Marsh and Cody Rodgers, associate director of Wood Center.

In an attempt to gauge the success of AlcoholEdu in 2015, UAF offered students who completed the program a possible reward. However, participation only amounted to 4 percent of the student body, which was “an insufficient figure to understand student alcohol behavior” according to McCollough.

The current policy stipulates that students who fail to complete the two-part course within the allotted time face a $150 fine per segment, for $300 in total possible fines per student. According to Houchin, these fees will fund additional sexual assault prevention, bystander intervention and alcohol education training programs.

“The program, deadline and fine were determined with the best interest of the student body’s health and safety in mind,” Houchin said. “We implemented AlcoholEdu due to both the national and Alaska state statistics on alcoholism, sexual violence resulting from alcohol and higher drinking rates on Halloween.”

Students from Cole’s class were not satisfied with the decision to require and penalize students for not participating in AlcoholEdu in a timely fashion. Students inquired about a variety of topics including survey honesty, the transparency of allocation of collected student fines and privacy.

“Their website doesn’t even clarify what an ‘authorized’ party is. And because it’s so vague it’s subject to possible legal inquiries or advertising research,” Cole said.

“I was completely unaware of this,” McCollough said upon reviewing EverFi’s website.

In addition to anonymity concerns, students at the panel pointed out the flaws with AlcoholEdu’s methods on collecting accurate data. In order to address student commentary, McCollough drafted a summary of the panel’s questions to address existing concerns.

“I will look into the terms of privacy and student rights in relation to EverFi, and get back to you on that,” McCollough said.

Inquiries were made regarding EverFi’s privacy policy and details of their contract with UAF. No response was received by press time.

An earlier version of this article mistakenly identified Houchin, Marsh and Rodgers as the source of the training mandate. These individuals only advocated for the mandate, which was then approved and implemented by Chancellor Powers and his cabinet.

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