In the past week, Georgetown student employees learned from various sources — texts from colleagues, emails from bosses, rumors from friends, campus news sources — that the university had accidentally sent their private information to the wrong recipients by mail. The information was released via student employee’s annual W-2 tax and wage forms — which include, among other sensitive information, employees’ Social Security numbers. The situation became apparent to students quickly but took far too long for the university officially confirm.
Perhaps worse than the mistake, which only hurt a limited number of employees, was the poor way in which the university responded to the incident. It took several days to respond and disseminate information about what should have been an avoidable mistake in the digital payroll system, Georgetown Management System. And when GMS finally contacted students, the messages expressed more of a legalistic concern for students than an attempt to express any real concern for the potential consequences for student workers. In response to this travesty, the only advice offered to affected students was that they “may wish to explore the information and guidance offered by the Federal Trade Commission on how to protect yourself from identity theft …. [and/or] request a free copy of your credit report, and even put a fraud alert on your credit report, by contacting any one of the following three credit reporting companies.”
Moreover, this kind of incident does not bode well for relations between the university administration and student employees, including many students on workstudy who rely on their jobs to help fund their Georgetown education and the associated costs. In the future, Georgetown can and should do more to care for its student workers by offering them support and resources when security catastrophes like this occur.
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