Secure G-number system at risk

Educators and administrators have encountered various elements that encroach on the privacy of students’ educational records, both in Geneseo and worldwide. On the Geneseo campus, publicly posting a list of student identification numbers, or “G-numbers,” next to testing scores and grades has raised concerns about whether it violates the rights of students to make their G-numbers publicly available. In recent years, the G-number has become similar to a social security number. Given to all students at their enrollment, it provides access to enrollment features and academic systems.

The issue begins with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Through this act, colleges are not allowed to release grades, test scores, class schedules, grade point averages, housing information or financial and conduct records.

“There are also certain pieces of information that the government says we can’t use – for example, your social security number,” Dean of Students Leonard Sancilio said.

“What happened at Geneseo was when we switched from using the social security number to something else. That’s when we created the G-number … Originally, if you wanted to post grades, you would use the G-number,” he said.

This backfired, however, when the G-number became a mechanism for access into confidential academic accounts. Publicly releasing G-numbers to report grades provides the tools for essentially anyone to trace a student’s number to their name and therefore their academic records on KnightWeb or myGeneseo.

“We created a number to use, but that number then took on confidential meaning as well,” Sancilio said. “Then we didn’t do a great job of telling people not to use this Geneseo ID to post grades anymore.”

“It makes me uncomfortable knowing that another student could have access into my accounts if they determined which G-number belonged to me,” freshman Haley Smith said. “It is a relief they are doing something about this.”

One major problem is the issue of providing teachers with another form of grade delivery now that using G-numbers has been prohibited.

“We are trying to educate teachers on how to distribute grades and educational records without giving access to other people,” Sancilio said. “This is a work in progress, but the simplest way to do it is through myCourses.”

Unfortunately, adapting to myCourses has proven itself a difficult task.

“Faculty members are asking if there are other ways to [distribute grades],” Sancilio added. “That is what we are trying to figure out.”

Regardless of these minor setbacks, Geneseo administrators are determined to protect the rights of students’ academic records.