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Dean mistakenly forwards private e-mail to graduate students

Graduate School Dean George Justice said he regrets the error.

Oct. 15, 2010

In an attempt to forward a student's e-mail to faculty members Wednesday, Graduate School Dean George Justice accidentally forwarded the message to all MU graduate students. In his own message within the forwarded e-mail intended for faculty members, Justice said, based on his own observation, he believed the student suffered from "mental distress."

Justice later sent out an e-mail apologizing to the students who received the initial e-mail unintentionally and asked them to please delete it from their inboxes.

“It was clearly (and obviously) a mistake which I regret,” Justice said in a separate e-mail to The Maneater.

Justice said the graduate student’s initial e-mail was sent to Chancellor Brady Deaton and copied to him as well as other administrators in the Political Science department. He said the student had also tried to copy the entire MU student body on the e-mail.

Justice said he made the mistake because when he hit “reply all” he assumed he was only replying to the administrators and did not see that the listserv of the MU graduate student body was in the CC box.

“I deeply regret this mistake, especially as I inadvertently violated the privacy of a former student,” he said.

The political science graduate student in question did not respond to an e-mail request for comment. She left MU earlier this semester.

Counsel for the UM system Paul Maguffee refused to comment on whether the situation could instigate legal problems, but he did say that during his approximately six years in the UM system, he has not been aware of any lawsuits pertaining to student privacy violations.

“We’re here to provide advice and counsel to the university faculty and administrators, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to speculate about whether there could be legal concerns arising out of a particular thing like this,” Magufee said.

Journalism graduate student Chelsea Reynolds was among the students who received the e-mail.

“Having looked over it once or twice, I can’t really determine whose fault it was,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds also said the fact that the e-mail contained the student’s I.D. number and name could lead to privacy concerns.

“Well, what worries me about this entire mishap is that if you’re not extremely aware of the way our listservs work, you could provide confidential information to the public,” she said.

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Article comments

Oct. 18, 2010 at 1:28 a.m.

Mike S.: Atrocious. If that student wasn't suffering "mental distress" before, well he/she probably is now. Speaking from personal experience, administrators at universities may have good intentions in these matters but are largely incapable of understanding or appreciating the underlying issues - making things worse would seem to be the rule rather than the exception. University policies on these sorts of things are tailored towards political concerns - how the university is perceived by the public vis-a-vis their stated policies - and often are in violation of students rights under the law. Administrators and policy makers within the UC system, for example, have proven themselves to be totally ignorant of the law countless times on matters related to student codes of conduct.

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