Building graphics could pose legal problem if students object

Robert Checkal

Directory information must be confidential to make case

In addition to graphics on the University Library and Student Recreation and Wellness Center, more were added to the MAC Center Monday afternoon. Rachel Kilroy | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Graphics on the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, the University Library and the M.A.C. Center are part of the University Communication and Marketing team’s initiative to provide consistent branding across the campus. But the university may face issues if their lack of research leads to legal action.

Under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 2741, the university has the ability to use an individual’s “persona” for educational or promotional purposes of the university if the individual is or was a student, faculty or staff member at Kent State.

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the university is still allowed to use a student, faculty or staff member’s image for those purposes, but only if that individual has not requested their directory information to be listed as confidential.

FERPA defines directory information as more than just a name, address, phone number and e-mail address. It broadens directory information to also include photos, fields of study and more.

Because the university did not identify the students when the photographs were taken, two potential cases could emerge.

In one case, an individual may not be affiliated with the university as a student, faculty or staff member, allowing them to take action under Ohio law.

In another case, a student, faculty or staff member depicted on the graphics may have requested confidentiality on their directory information, allowing them to take action under federal law.

As of Oct. 12, the University Registrar’s office showed 716 students with a confidential indicator marked in their system for students registered for Fall 2009 courses. That number is out of approximately 38, 242 registered students among the main and regional campuses.

Tom Neumann, associate vice president for University Communications and Marketing, said the individuals depicted obviously knew they were being photographed.

“Certainly when someone sticks a camera in their face, they have the opportunity to say, ‘I’d rather not have my picture taken,'” Neumann said.

He said White Hall is slated to receive similar graphics.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” said Adria Troy, freshman political science major. “But the pictures should be of just KSU students.”

“They should let you know,” said Natasha Smythe, junior psychology and pre-law major. “I would want to know if my face was going on a building. It’d (be) fine if a student OK’d it first.”

“They should at least get consent from students, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” said Katie O’Bannon, senior early childhood education major.

Neumann said the UCM is protected under state law, but the research conducted did not include information about or consultation with students depicted in the photographs chosen for the graphics. Also, there were no study groups on students’ opinions regarding the graphics.

“There’s always a possibility for student designs in the future,” He said. “We have a student agency here in our department, there’s a new student agency starting up downtown, so obviously this university is very engaging as far as student opinion.”

Meanwhile, the university must wait to see if any individuals depicted come forward as an individual who is not a student, faculty or staff member or as an individual who previously requested their directory information to remain confidential.

Contact SRWC reporter Robert Checkal at [email protected]