Privacy concerns will undermine welfare

University is a time at which many people are trying to establish an identity for themselves in which they feel comfortable and secure. Particularly early on in their stay at university, individuals are acutely conscious of how they portray themselves, and which choice snippets of life’s rich tapestry to share with new found friends.

It came as a rather nasty surprise when last week LGBT Social accidentally revealed the email addresses, and therefore identities, of the York students on their mailing list. By allowing this to happen, the committee have breached the privacy of those who entrusted them with very sensitive information, many of who may not yet feel comfortable having certain details enter the public domain.

While social chairs Robert Hughes and Michellie Young were quick to apologise for the error, many of those involved will be slow to forget such a careless mistake, particularly younger students for whom this may be their first real interaction with welfare provisions at York.

many of those involved will be slow to forget such a careless mistake

In order to function successfully, societies which have a role to play in student welfare must be one in which the students can have absolute confidence that they will be treated with confidentiality when they are utilising it. While it must certainly be stressed that this breach was an accidental and isolated incident, it has undermined the idea of privacy of information and many students may now feel less able to seek support if they require it, for fear that personal information may be disclosed.

While this was a very serious error on the part of the committee, they were also quite unfortunate that it happened when it did, as a few months later and a sizeably higher portion of the people on the list would have known each other already and, having settled into university, not have been as uncomfortable about the ones they didn’t. The mistake would still have distressed some, but it would have at least lacked the widespread upset of a blunder in the first week.

We must hope that those who have been affected do not lose confidence in what will hopefully be a very reliable and useful LGBT Social society and accept that under lots of pressure to get organised at the beginning of a new term even the best run teams occasionally overlook an important detail.

Also, in full fairness to the social chairs, they have certainly done everything that could be expected to rectify their mistake.

It’s a shame that first impressions do have have something of a tendency to stick, though, and the committee will have to work hard this term if they are to recover the trust of the campus LGBT community that they serve.

2 comments

  1. And I’m sure that this article hanging around in the Nouse archives won’t prolong the memory of this incident occuring, will it? You couldn’t be contributing to people losing confidence in LGBT social, could you?

    Just over 100 email addresses were published, in an email sent only to the people on that list. Yes, it’s bad that people were outed, but the people receiving those emails should be people that respect the fact that people are LGBT and would not wish to cause harm to anyone. Otherwise, you could complain that by sending out emails advertising events, LGBT social is telling people where LGBT people are going to be, and thus outing them.

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  2. This is certainly regrettable, but I think people should avoid equating the incident with the people on the mailing list being ‘outed’. Don’t make assumptions about people based on their email address being on a mailing list. Some people may have signed up to it for admin purposes, to keep informed about LGBT matters or events, or simply out of curiosity. UK universities are liberal institutions where young people are surely free to try new things and find out who they are without the consequence of being definitively labelled.

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