Thursday, May 19, 2011

Judge rules that we can publish our students' stupid emails (full names and all).

A judge has decided that our students' emails are not protected by FERPA. So now we don't need to anonymize them anymore. We don't need to call the snowflakes "Feckless Farah" or "Stupid Sammy" or "Careless Carol." No more speaking in code. We can just come right out and publish the little idiots' uncensored, unabridged emails--with their real names attached.

So, tomorrow, you might want to put together a Powerpoint presentation for your class, titled, "These are some of your classmates' stupid emails."

Or compile a book full of the emails and market it on late-night TV: "Emails Gone Wild! Uncensored! See your peers' emails IN THE RAW! Just $9.95 if you call now!"


  1. Good grief. That finding is specifically about a mass murderer. It hardly applies in the way you've written it up.

  2. I disagree. The judge ruled that FERPA didn't apply, not that in the case of murders, FERPA is overridden.

    I really don't know why the e-mails should be made public. That is a very different thing than the e-mails being subpeoned for an investigation.

  3. “Ferpa implies that education records are institutional records kept by a single central custodian, such as a registrar, not individual assignments or e-mails."

    That statement has pretty clear, far-ranging implications. I like the way this neatly trashes my institution's insistence that we NEVER email a group of students unless all their email addresses are in the BCC field (because, you know, sharing their email addresses violates FERPA).

  4. Because this is a local court, not a federal court, the ruling doesn't create a strong precedent applicable everywhere (IANAL, etc). But it does create a precedent that will almost certainly be cited and contested for some time. I suspect that our institutions will continue their "surfeit of caution" policies until a ruling at least at the Federal level.

  5. Listen, just don't be an idiot and start using your students' names on this site. It will just lead to you being outed and your job being threatened.

  6. Monkey, I don't think anyone here is QUITE that stupid.

    The legality of an action is far away from the ethics of an action. I would expect that students sending me emails have a reasonable expectation that I don't publicly humiliate them by posting the email.

    On the other hand, Just In Time Teaching responses are totally fair game.

  7. Just replace the names with "Motherfucker" if it's male and "Motherfuckett" if it's female, and tag numbers or letters after that word to differentiate between them.


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