home > newsroom
Utah University Reprimands Professors for
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 11, 1998
SALT LAKE CITY, UT -- Two University of Utah professors who wrote a letter criticizing the
academic record of a Daily Utah Chronicle student columnist have been reprimanded by their
bosses, and the American Civil Liberties Union has threatened to wade into the issue with charges
of privacy violations.
According to a report in the Salt Lake City Tribune, the incident started last year when sophomore
columnist Brandon Winn tried to poke fun at a group of sports fans with the statement: "The
problem with these fans is they are about as bright as a Parks and Tourism major."
"It was just a joke," Winn told the paper. "I know a lot of people in the parks and recreation
department. That’s the main reason I chose that one, and they didn”t have a problem with it."
But others did.
John Crossley, undergraduate director of the parks, recreation and tourism department, and
department Chairman Gary Ellis wanted Winn disciplined by the paper’s editor. They tapped into
Winn’s academic records and found what they believe was fodder for their contention that Winn was
in no position to judge the academic merits of their students.
"It is interesting that Mr. Winn mocks the intelligence level of our students when his own academic
record is nothing to brag about," the two wrote in a private letter to Chronicle Editor Robert A.
Jones. "Perhaps Mr. Winn should be less critical of an academic department which has higher
standards than those demonstrated by his own level of "brightness."
Such a use of student records, the Tribune says, is prohibited in the university’s faculty handbook,
which states faculty can only access grades for "legitimate purposes such as advising,
administrative planning and statistical reporting."
It is also a violation, the newspaper said, of the federal Family Educational Right to Privacy Act.
The ACLU of Utah told the Tribune that it is ready to back Winn. "It’s unfair and unethical and an
invasion of his privacy," said Carol Gnade, Executive Director of the ACLU of Utah.
She said her office has recently received complaints from two others at the university about the lax
attitude toward accessing academic records. "This is symbolic of a greater problem that we have in
data privacy," she told the newspaper.
Source: Salt Lake City Tribune