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By Kim Manahan
Freshman Troy Springer wondered all day Oct. 25 how his friends and teammates knew that he had below a 1.00 grade point average.
He didn’t realize that he was one of 18 Wesley College students named in an email that had accidently been sent to all students by Mary-Alice Ozechoski, dean of students. The e-mail listed students who had earned below a 1.00 GPA.
“I am so very sorry to have made these mistakes,” Ozechoski said. “I apologize to all of the Wesley College students and faculty and staff for my mistakes and to have done everything possible to prevent any further incidents.”
This was the second incident in the past two years that Ozechoski forwarded a confidential e-mail to the student body.
Springer’s name was on the most recent one.
“I thought to myself, that has to be against the law,” he said. “I know that it was a mistake and it happens, but I think that shows a lack of responsibility.”
This accident violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), said Eric Nelson, vice president of finance.
Originally sent by Paul Olsen to the students’ advisers, Olsen also e-mailed it to Ozechoski, who wanted to send it to her “staff,” but sent it to “students” instead.
It wasn’t done maliciously, Olsen said.
“My concern is the well-being of the students,” he said.
Friends made freshman Brittany Britt, who also made the list, aware of the situation.
“One of my friends came to me when I was on my way to my room and showed me a letter that had my name on a list,” she said. “He printed it out and was showing people that he knew what was going on.”
Britt became upset when people began confronting her about the situation.
“People look at you a lot differently,” Springer said, “which is the most aggravating part.”
About two dozen students viewed the e-mail before it was retracted, Nelson said.
Nelson told the News Journal that only about “a dozen or so” students opened the e-mail before it was retracted.
Two retractions were sent out within the next half hour.
“After the e-mail is opened, it remains in the mailbox,” Nelson said. “[Retractions] only get unread emails back.”
The mistake made its way to several news outlets, including the Wilmington News Journal, USA Today, and Inside Higher Education, all of whom emphasized a line Olsen wrote about a failing student: “…the hole she has dug is deeper than the mine shaft in Chile.”
No one knows who e-mailed the message to the News Journal.
“It’s a negative reflection, but I think we need to use it as a learning experience,” Nelson said.
The Department of Education has not cited Wesley, he said. Wesley self-reported the incident to the department.
Actions to prevent this from happening again have already taken affect.
“Before a campus wide e-mail is sent, it has to be approved by two different people,” Nelson said.
Ozechoski apologized to the campus community for her mistakes.
“I have done everything possible to prevent any further incidents,” she said.
Mass e-mails from student life have been sent out from the address firstname.lastname@example.org.
President Johnston sent an apology to the named students.
“Wesley tried sending me a letter saying they were sorry,” Springer said. “Someone from upstairs in the college center set up a meeting too.”
He did not attend, though.
“I have other things that are more important than someone sitting behind a desk telling me something I have heard before,” Springer said.
An e-mail apology was also sent out.
“The college had sent a letter to me stating that they were sorry about what happened,” Britt said. “They didn’t state how it happened or why.”
For Britt, it is a very important issue.
“We are considering taking [legal] action,” she said.
According to FERPA rules, no legal action can be taken, although a school may be cited by the DOE. If enough citations are accumulated, the school could lose its federal funding.