Thursday, February 17, 2011

OU provides student contact data to bank as part of monetary agreement even though state law bans selling it for purposes of marketing credit cards to students

University of Oklahoma officials have provided student contact information to the Bank of America in apparent contradiction of state law, the student newspaper recently reported.

The Oklahoma Daily's article and editorial focus on what the university has done with $8.8 million it has received from its credit card affinity agreements with the Bank of America and Mid-First Bank.

According to the newspaper, OU received money in exchange for releasing student contact information to the Bank of America. "OU receives commission and royalties on all purchases made on the cards and when the bank acquires new members," the newspaper reported.

"In return for these contact lists and other forms of support and assistance, the university receives $1 for each new student credit-card account opened, $1 for each annual fee paid on student credit-card accounts, 0.40 percent on all retail transaction volume for all student credit-card accounts and other royalties," the newspaper said.

As The OU Daily points out, state law bars universities from selling "student data to any creditor for purposes of marketing consumer credit to students." The statute defines creditors as any company "who, in the ordinary course of business, regularly extends consumer credit." (OKLA. STAT. tit. 70,§ 3245)

The newspaper said OU officials agreed with Bank of America to provide updated contact lists containing the last-known mailing address and phone numbers of alumni, donors, faculty, staff and "other potential participants." These other potential participants have always included students, university spokesman Chris Shilling told the newspaper.

Shilling said the student information was NOT being sold because OU is required by law to provide student-directory information to anyone who makes an open records request.

I wish universities would be this creative in finding a way to provide public records when doing so wouldn't garner them millions of dollars.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

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