BISMARCK – The State Board of Higher Education unanimously voted during a recent board meeting to implement a new policy to protect the privacy of student data.

The policy was originally created by the North Dakota Student Association and is the first of its kind in the nation to specifically address student data privacy, according to the North Dakota University System.

Under the leadership of NDSA President Cambree Smith, a resolution on behalf of the students sought to outline their rights related to the collection and use of students’ personally identifiable information. It also will control access to that data.

“The policy was supported by all of the appropriate councils and committees and passed with the support of the full board,” Vice Chancellor Lisa Johnson said. “I believe this reflects the board and the system’s support of our students’ needs to address concerns about protecting their privacy of data.”

The policy states that students have the right to inspect and review the content of their educational record maintained at an institution. It also states students have a right to challenge the contents of those records.

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Additionally, the policy says neither NDUS nor any NDUS institution can sell, release or disclose students’ personal identifiable information for commercial or advertisement purposes.

The policy also covers third-party educational providers and students’ right to privacy with those types of groups. That portion of the policy is meant to set guidelines that ensure student’s personally identifiable information is not compromised through licensure agreements or the required use of free or open-source software applications in an academic setting that captured more than a name or campus-issued email address.

Smith said she has spent the last three years building a “strong working relationship with the North Dakota University System, as they are such active advocates for higher education students and often allies to the North Dakota Student Association.”

The state board also passed a separate student political rights policy, which has an emphasis on permissible student political activities and electioneering.

“Over the last year, the NDSA has faced many unprecedented times, as much of the country has, so I could not be prouder of the work NDUS and NDSA were able to accomplish with two highly relevant board policies regarding political activity rights and data privacy rights,” Smith said.

Board member and outgoing student representative Kaleb Dschaak participated in that meeting and has been supportive of implementing the policy. Dschaak is a University of North Dakota student.

“Feedback from the North Dakota Student Association has been positive and students expressed their appreciation of translating the details of their resolution in the board policy that was implemented,” he said.