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Editorial: Reinstatement of information sharing should be cautious

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MARCH 15, 2013 5:00 AM

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In an interview with The Daily Iowan, University of Iowa President Sally Mason spoke about the school sharing private information protected with the Johnson County Sherriff’s Office concerning the issuing of gun permits to students.

“Professionals who work closely with [individuals seeking to get gun permits] should be in a good position to judge whether or not they are mentally healthy,” she said. “It’s never good to second-guess, it really never is in these situations.”

Some of the information provided to the Sheriff’s Office included grades and disciplinary histories, which are deemed strictly confidential by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. Though the UI program was suspended after it was revealed publicly, the university is waiting for direction from the Department of Education on how to proceed.

“I think there is potentially a place for us to be able to share information that we might have that would be helpful to the sheriff,” Mason said. “We are very much in favor of being able to cooperate with local law enforcement anytime we can be helpful and useful to them. It’s all about campus safety.”

The reinstitution of an information-sharing program between the UI and the Sherriff’s Office means the inevitable sacrifice of some right to privacy on the part of students, and though the Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes it to be acceptable, the program should be reformed to better inform students of any privacy invasion.

The suspended program included a waiver signed by students seeking gun permits that allowed the “review and full disclosure of all records concerning myself  … to any duly authorized agent of an Iowa sheriff or the commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, whether the said records are of a public, private, or confidential nature.”

If a new program is instated, the language should be highly specific and explicit in nature. Students should be informed exactly which records will be shared and should be provided the opportunity to review the records before they are sent. Students should also be able to speak to any recommendations passed down by university officials.     

The genesis of the information sharing occurred after the 1991 shooting on the UI campus in which graduate student Gang Lu killed five people and severely wounded another, then killed himself.

The shooting was suspected to have occurred due to academic stress, and information sharing between the Sherriff’s Office and the university began soon after. 

Recently, another UI graduate student, 28-year-old Taleb Salameh, was killed in a standoff with police officers when they were responding to a domestic-disturbance call at Salameh’s North Liberty home.

When reviewing Salameh’s 2010 application for a gun permit, UI Dean of Students David Grady was apprehensive about Salameh’s request. Salameh was granted a gun permit after consideration by the Sheriff’s Office.

These incidents are tragedies — violence perpetrated with harsh intention culminating in the loss of life. The victims should be memorialized and mourned, and the acts should be remembered. Steps have been and should be taken to secure the safety of university students and faculty.

But in the name of safety, rights such as privacy should not be given away. Though the Editorial Board believes that some information sharing between the UI and the Sheriff’s Office is acceptable, the board also iterates that the process should not be easy or all encompassing.


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