Housing changes waitlist procedures amidst privacy concerns

Carter Mudgett, Editor in Chief

There is not enough on-campus housing during the Fall 2022 semester to meet the needs of the University of North Florida’s student population, and, with about 400 students waitlisted, some upperclassmen are raising concerns about how Housing has handled their private information. 

In preparation for the upcoming Fall semester, upper-class students planning to live on campus were able to sign up for a spot in March 2022. However, the number of students attending UNF vastly outweighs the number of rooms available, and many didn’t make the cut. 

Once the rooms were filled, anyone looking to sign up was waitlisted and received an email detailing their options. Spinnaker obtained a copy of that email sent by Housing to a student who asked to remain anonymous. 

Demand for a bed space in the Fall 2022 semester is “extremely high,” according to the email.

Students had two options. Either request to be released from the Housing Contract and search for housing elsewhere or wait and see if a room opens up. Housing gives no guarantee that a student on the waitlist will get a housing assignment.

A screenshot of a waitlist email, obtained by Spinnaker, sent by Housing to a student that has asked to remain anonymous. Highlighted in yellow, the email details the two options the student has.
A screenshot of a waitlist email, obtained by Spinnaker, sent by Housing to a student that has asked to remain anonymous. Highlighted in yellow, the email details the two options the student has.

The entire waitlist was available at the end of the email and was broken into two categories based on gender: Male and Female. Listed at the bottom of the email were N-numbers (N#) corresponding with their spot on the list. 

N numbers are UNF’s way of identifying each person attending or working at the university, frequently correlating with their email address. Anyone with access to a UNF email account can look up an N# and find a student’s name. 

At the time this particular email was sent, over 190 males and over 200 females were already on the waitlist.

Spinnaker reached out to UNF Media Relations Manager Amanda Ennis who gave the following statement:

“While an N-number is a unique student identifier, an N-number alone cannot be used to access a student account or any other confidential or private information. To access such information, a person would need access to an N-number, password and go through UNF’s multi-factor authentication,” Ennis wrote in an email. 

In an effort to avoid any future confusion, Housing has “relayed that they will send individualized housing waitlist emails in the future,” Ennis wrote. Spinnaker has not received any word about what this email would look like by the time of publishing.

FERPA and student privacy

Following the 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), UNF safeguards its student’s privacy rights and can’t release personally identifiable information to third parties without the student’s written and signed consent, according to the UNF Office of General Counsel website

Personally identifiable information is defined as any information easily traced to a student and may include “name, name of parents or family members, address, social security or UNF N number, grades, GPA, class schedules, transcripts, a list of personal characteristics, or any other information that clearly distinguishes the student’s identity,” according to the UNF Office of Records and Registration website

This category is broken into two subcategories: Directory information and non-directory information. Non-directory information is protected by FERPA, but directory information is not. 

Directory information refers to information about a student that is not considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed and is able to be requested. This information can be disclosed without the student’s consent unless they submit a non-disclosure request. 

Directory information includes all of the following:

  • Name
  • Mailing Address
  • Telephone number
  • Dates of attendance
  • Admitted College / Majors
  • Degrees Awarded
  • Status (Full or Part-Time)
  • Classification (freshman, sophomore, etc)
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • Honors
  • Weight/ Height of athletes
  • Student images, including photographs, videos, or any other media containing a student’s image or likeness

Below this list on the UNF Office of Records and Registration website, it specifically reads that “*Email addresses are not considered directory information.”

Non-directory information includes all of the following:

  • Birth date
  • Religion
  • Social Security Number
  • Citizenship
  • Disciplinary status
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • GPA (grade point average)
  • Marital status
  • Grades/exam scores
  • Standardized test scores

Learn more about FERPA at UNF here


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