SIU ID policy violates federal law

By Gus Bode

To the Editor:I was amused to read Wednesday’s Daily Egyptian headline “University reluctant to change IDs.” When I arrived on campus as an assistant professor in 1994, I objected to the use of Social Security numbers as universal identifiers on campus. After being refused library privileges and a parking decal for my temerity, I called the Office of General Counsel to indicate that this practice was illegal under the Federal Privacy Act of 1974. That act bars government agencies like SIUC from requiring people to give a Social Security number for other than tax purposes and from denying “benefits of employment” to people who refuse to cough theirs up.

When I placed that call, I hadn’t a clue about SIUC’s administrative culture and actually was taken off guard to be asked by an associate legal counsel what made me think that library privileges and parking were benefits of employment for a faculty member. Could I not perform my duties perfectly well without them? There ensued a year’s correspondence with SIUC’s then general counsel, which was notable for the legal obtuseness he appeared to show. In the end he said conforming to the law would be “enormously expensive and burdensome” but promised to think about it. I took the thrust of his responses to be, “If you think you can successfully sue us over this and still get tenure, be my guest!”

I have tilted at other windmills since, but none of these sallies has quite so neatly captured the flavor of Anthony Hall.


Mark Schneider, associate professor, sociology