Spam in SWOSU’s email accounts: How to protect your private student information



Emails like this reach SWOSU students’ email accounts on a regular basis.

Johannes Becht, News Editor


“Please review your student loan info”

“Honor Society Acceptance Letter”

Those are just a few of many spam emails SWOSU students receive on a regular basis. Some students might ask themselves why several organizations and government entities have their personal information, such as name, degree, or even GPA.

Did you know that SWOSU can give out your personal data?

Brian Adler, vice president of public relations & marketing: “Unfortunately in today’s society, the spam emails are something we all deal with from time to time.”

Adler did not answer questions by The Southwestern on whether SWOSU is giving out personal data of students. However, he referred to a FERPA – Block Form from the Registrar’s Office. FERPA stands for Federal Education Right to Privacy Act.

The document says:

“As a student of Southwestern Oklahoma State University, I request that a F.E.R.P.A. block be placed on my directory information. I understand that the following items are NOT shared without my permission: Social security number, Student ID number, Race/ethnicity or religion, Citizenship, Gender, Class location(s), Grades received, GPA, Graduation honors, Probationary/suspension status.”

In other words, without filling out this document, information such as Social Security number and others can be shared by the administration.

But it gets worse: According to page 31 of the student handbook, directory information also include address, telephone listing, photograph, date and place of birth, dates of attendance, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, and honors and awards.

Since Adler did not specify what kind and how much of those information are shared with external organizations, it is not clear how much of students’ data is out there.

In the case of the Oklahoma National Guard (see cover picture), it becomes clear that citizenship status was not shared. Our News Editor does not have U.S. citizenship, which would prevent him from joining the National Guard, making email advertising unnecessary in the first place.

But the problem doesn’t stop there: A faculty member told The Southwestern he received multiple fake emails using real names of professors working in the same department plus a fake email from Provost Joel Kendall in one instance. They usually ask for contact information.

Adler did not comment on these instances.