Sogang University announced that all future final exam grades will be sent to students’ parents via text messages, and students are against the new policy. Starting from the first semester of 2019, final grades will be sent directly to parents’ phone numbers instead of the previous method of mailing them to residences uploaded on Saint. Being one of the very first universities in Seoul to do so, and due to a lack of background information about the abrupt change in access to final grades, Sogang students are questioning the reason behind the announcement. The Sogang Herald proceeds to probe the school’s intention that led to this controversial change through three major issues: Were the intentions behind the decision sound enough? Were the students notified in rich detail about the final grades prior to the event? Did the actions taken by the school meet the first intentions?
On the final semester of 2018, Sogang University sent out its last mail of final exam results. An announcement that future exam results will not be sent via mail was enclosed with it, also notifying students that future exam grades will be sent through text messages. Dorae Student Council also alerted students through Facebook on December that final exam results will not be sent by mail starting from 2019, though offering no further information on how it would be announced to students and parents. On July 7, the Office of Academic Administration released an announcement that starting from 2019, all final exam results will be sent to parents because of difficulty in managing rejected mails due to change of addresses and taking responsibility for leaking personal information. The announcement added that all text messages will be sent to parents’ phone numbers registered in students’ SAINT systems. In answer to this statement, Dorae Student Council questioned the Office of Academic Administration about the exam results and conveyed the students’ apparent discomfort about the sudden change. The Office of Academic Administration proffered principle 23 of Student Information Protection in order to support the university’s stance and added that students will be able to choose whether to have their exam results sent to their parents in the near future after small changes. If there are no parents’ phone numbers registered in SAINT, it will be taken that the student has not shown consent and the exam results will be sent to their personal addresses. Looking up their exam results in SAINT will still be viable, and further complications and minor problems can be dealt with at the Public Relations Office, according to Dorae Student Council.
Were the intentions behind the decision sound enough?
One of the most frequently asked questions by the students is whether the university’s reasoning behind this change is logical. Sogang University is assuring students that it is only to protect students’ personal information. Some students, including an interviewee student (17, Dept. of English Literature & Linguistics) think otherwise. “Our grades are also part of our personal information. Disclosing them to our parents without our consent can also be seen as infringing student rights to personal information. University students are adults in growing, and adults have a right to keep their personal information to themselves.” Akin to the Soganger, some students seem wary about how having their grades sent directly to their parents can be a part of protecting their information. Students are also pointing out that because parents could access to Sogangers’ grades through the previous mail notifications, the university loses its credibility on the point that switching to texting grades is a sure way to notify both parents and students of final results.
However not all students disagree with this altered system. A Soganger (18, Dept. of Life Sciences) showed consent towards the school that exam results sent through mail have a higher possibility of getting lost and leaking personal information. “There are certain cases where students’ addresses change without prior notification to the school, which causes the mail being sent to an alternate address,” the interviewee spoke up. “I think having our grades sent through text messages are better at keeping our personal information safe.” The Soganger’ s opinion goes along with the school’s consistent stance that the change is an advanced service that can protect students’ personal information. According to a spokesperson from the Office of Academic Administration, exam results carry highly confidential information including grades, student ID, and location, so drastic changes had to be made to protect information.
Were the students notified in rich detail about the final grades prior to the event?
The student body was indeed informed about the change, but it failed to elicit a more immediate response due to lack of proper advertisement among Sogang students. A notification was sent to students last year with information about sending exam results via text messages, and Dorae Student Council twice announced that there will be certain changes concerning final exam results, separately on Dec 31. 2018 and July 13 this year. However, this seemed to be inefficient in providing necessary information to students. Interviewees and several other students seemed to have disregarded the notification letters last year. Facebook posts from Dorae Student Council elicited few responses, resulting in about only a couple of replies in each of the Facebook posts.
Were the actions taken by Sogang University meet their intentions?
If it was intended to keep students’ personal information safe, was the University’s actions in line with their intentions? Kim Yeong-joon (18, Dept. of English Literature &Linguistics) feels that Sogang University has a point. “Our parents are the ones paying for our fees, so I think they have a right to know our grades,” argued Kim. “However, if Sogang University sends our grades to our parents without our notice, then I think that goes against our right of personal information.” An interviewee from the Office of Academic Administration elaborated on how the reasons behind the school’s decision are just. “Grade notification letters contain highly personal information such as exam results and student ID, and it is necessary to take effective measures to ensure the safety of Sogang students’ information.” The spokesperson continued that there had been cases of students “losing” their exam results and parents inquiring the University about them continuously. The interviewee also admitted that mailing each grade individually had taken too much time and effort, so the change to texting was a method to find a more efficient and less time-consuming way. These series of events had played a major role in decisions that led to sending exam results directly to parents. By giving students a choice to whether have their grades sent to their parents or not, Sogang University will not be infringing students’ rights to their information and still have parents have accurate information about exam results. “You can still have the results sent to your phone number if you wish not to have them sent to your parents, and SAINT will still be operational as always so that you can look up your grades if you want to,” he added.
Texting Grades Put to the Test on Credibility and Efficiency
Universities are letting go of the earlier method of sending students’ exam results directly to their addresses, and Sogang University is not the only place turning away from mailing grades. Yonsei University also announced that students will no longer be able to accept their test results by mail, and an individual platform where parents will able to find their children’s grades will be opened. The direct change was also met with strong arguments from Yonsei University students, but Yonsei University kept an adamant pose, arguing that parents and students will still have open access to final exam results, so the rebuttal that students will not have information about their grades is invalid. Universities are moving away from the previous method of sending mails to each student and opting for a more efficient and less time-consuming method that can please both students and parents. Students can have their grades sent directly to them if they want to, and parents will have reassurance that exam results will arrive due on schedule. However, there has been confusion among the student body due to lack of sufficient information provided by both the school and the student council. Alternative methods to better alert Sogang students in important changes are desperately in need, as neither the school nor Dorae Student Council has been able to convey the information to the majority of the students. Although the matter is far from finished, Dorae Student Council reassures students that the school and the student council are working together to provide better information and convey students’ opinions more accurately. Whether they are living up to their own expectations or not, students will have a glimpse into the new grade policy’s efficiency after the announcement of text messages coming up on August.