Editorial, Opinion

STAFF EDIT: Ross pushes legal limit

Boston City Council President Mike Ross continued his crusade against college students living off campus during last Tuesday’s City Council meeting as the council pledged to continue its efforts to force Boston-area universities to release the addresses of students living off campus in the name of preserving Boston’s neighborhoods for families.

So far, officials from numerous universities have refused to provide the city with this information, and for good reason. It isn’t a matter of universities refusing to cooperate with the city ‘-‘- it’s that they can’t. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act specifically states ‘Schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them.’ If a university were to immediately give away a student’s address to anyone who asks for it, it would be a blatant violation of this act. This is not something that can just be worked out with universities ‘-‘- students have the right to keep this information private, and universities must ensure that it is not released unless students have a reasonable amount of time to object to the request.

Students overcrowding Boston-area neighborhoods is not an ideal situation, but the way City Councilor John Connolly puts it, one would think students are responsible for all of Boston’s problems. Stereotyping all students as wild, keg-throwing residents who urinate in public is unfair, and pits the council against the undergraduate population of Boston. It is wrong to assume that college students are the sole cause of neighborhood disturbances; there are plenty of high school students and graduate students who could be ‘creating those parties that drive people out of Mission Hill, and also Brighton, Back Bay and Fenway’ as Connolly alleges.

There are ways to improve the unfavorable neighborhood situation created by landlords who take advantage of students by cramming them into tiny apartments. City Council could be working with universities to build more affordable, on-campus housing that would make living on campus more attractive to students. The current plan to demand that universities hand over the addresses of off-campus students without taking into consideration a student’s right to withhold this information is not only unfair; it’s against the law.

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One Comment

  1. Our Boston City Council President Mike Ross routinely deflects, delays, denies enquiries for Council public records. The good spirit of FOI freedom of information needs to be brought to every one of the hundred or so Council staff.