Editorial: Portal to your privacy

When George Orwell published the ominous “1984,” he told of a future monitored by the ever-watchful Big Brother. Now in 2007, Northeastern students have another worry: Big Mother and Big Father.

The recent launch of Northeastern’s Parents Portal, similar to students’ myNEU, is cause for alarm. The site, with student permission, grants parents access to their son or daughter’s grades and financial information. The site also offers campus news and a list of resources available to students and parents alike. On the surface, the Parent’s Portal seems like a good idea. Parents will be able to ensure their children are taking advantage of their schooling, and will have an opportunity to be involved in their children’s lives at Northeastern. But students must not be pacified by the friendly assurances that they are in total control of how much their parents can see; myNEU for parents is not a friend for students.

Are students really in control, anyway? Sure, they must give parents permission to see transcripts and bills and parents can’t set up an account without a pass phrase created by the student. But what happens when a parent requests access to the site and their child denies it? Do the Northeastern powers that be really think parents will not be upset, hurt or angry? Students who deny their parents access could be assumed to have something to hide, even if they are simply safeguarding their privacy.

Allow us to assume, for a second, that parents will use their portal responsibly and not as a platform to harass their children about overdue library books or going to every guest lecture that appears on their message board. Let us assume parents need access to their student’s grades for reasons other than simply ensuring their children haven’t been lying to them. Let us assume the Parent’s Portal exists for a reason beyond presenting pro-Northeastern propaganda in digitalized form. Even if all that were true (and we find it dubious) the Parent’s Portal would still be just plain unnecessary.

Upon signing into their new myNEU accounts, parents will be greeted with an array of pro-Northeastern “news” stories, and the ever-positive “Picture of the Week.” Care to see a Northeastern student concentrating with all his might during lecture? Log in now! Perhaps the Parent’s Portal was created simply to convince parents of the good investment (and it is a heavy one) they are making in their child’s education.

Assuming it is parents who pay for their children’s schooling (which isn’t always the case), they receive bills in the mail. Any parent anxious to know what is going on around campus is free to join the Northeastern Parent’s Association. Grades get sent home in the mail, and, one would hope, students communicate with their parents about how well they are doing in school. And if that communication isn’t happening, it’s none of Northeastern’s business. The Parent’s Portal is nothing more than a waste of time and resources that could have been better spent on something that benefits the students. We are the ones who go here.

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