Policy fuels the rumor mill

Certain events on campus draw the attention of the student body, but very few actually hold that attention for long. One such event happened a little over a week ago, and the rumor mill is still hot about it. In essence, there was a fight; that’s all. Why do students care so much? Why the veil of secrecy when it comes to information that can be released? Are the two related?

When events like this happen, the main source of knowledge would be the community advisers on campus. However, they are both legally and morally bound by confidentiality policies, which make them unable to give information on the event. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects everyone in post-secondary school over the age of 18, and allows students to control the disclosure of “personally identifiable information from the records.” This is essentially the basis of the confidentiality policy that the CA’s operate in accordance with.

However, students on campus clearly want to know the nitty-gritty. Everyone is engaged in a big game of “I heard this, a friend of a friend heard that, he said/she said he saw this.” Students want to know something about any dramatic event that happens on campus, and they aren’t being given the slightest on the fight. This is in order to protect the rights of the students involved, which I outlined above.

The confidentiality policy is designed with students’ best interest in mind, there’s no doubt about that. No student’s identity can be unwillingly given out by administration personnel unless it is deemed to be in the interest of greater campus safety. In theory, this is also designed to be a wrench in the gears of the rumor mill; keep information at a minimum and there won’t be any rumors to start.

Like many things, a great idea on paper is very difficult to execute given human nature. Since the time of the fight, many variations of the story have floated around, and it seems none of them are accurate. Students continue adding to their stories with other students’ stories, almost to satisfy the need for more information.

We here at The Spartan respect the confidentiality policy and understand exactly its purpose. What we don’t understand, however, is the limiting of information. In an effort to halt the rumor mill by not giving names or information about an event, the execution of the policy actually fuels the fire in a way that would not happen if identities were the only things kept secret. In this case, it seems a lot of rumors could have been avoided if a direct statement (omitting names) had been made addressing exactly what happened that night.

People have a way of being most interested in what is least available to them.

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