A UC San Diego Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) instructor is receiving backlash for humiliating a student and releasing the student’s private information on a public question-and-answer forum this past weekend.
Rundong Zhong, an international student and Math/CS major, posted a question on Piazza, a commonly-used forum that allows classmates, instructors, and professors to address questions students may have. Zhong asked if he could put “funny stuff” on a website project for the class.
In response, CSE Continuing Lecturer Susan Marx said that she would reprimand the tutor who approved of Zhong’s cat homepage idea. She also publicly revealed his academic status and devalued the community college he previously attended.
According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), “schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record.”
Due to the incident being under investigation, Marx was unable to comment at length; however, she told The Triton in an email, “The public posting of this information was inadvertent and I am deeply sorry.”
In response to the event, students are calling on others to report Marx to the Office for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment (OPHD), or to UCSD FERPA Compliance Officer Cindy Lyons.
Regardless of how she feels about the question, it is UNACCEPTABLE to handle the situation like this. Disclosing their academic status and discredting their community college is SO unprofessional and insensitive. This is a personal attack made by UCSD prof this is happening now😡 https://t.co/xVriRsRs9O
— KeyMe no Na wa (20%) (@garrettslauson) June 11, 2018
A program created by a student in support of Zhong summarizes the incident while referencing UCSD’s Principles of Community. It suggests to other UCSD students that they include cat pictures on their personal websites as a form of protest against Marx’s actions.
When asked about the incident, Zhong was more concerned about other students and the possibility of the same thing happening to them.
“Every professor has the power to look through [a] student’s private information…every student in UCSD [could potentially] get private information leaked,” said Zhong. “What we should really do is figure out who gave professors the power to look through student academic information and why.”
Zhong hopes that his story inspires other students who were also shamed by Marx to speak up for themselves.
Matthew Rom-Toribio is an Assistant News Editor at The Triton. You can follow him @MT2o.
Correction: This article was updated on August 1, 2018 at 1:20pm. A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Susan Marx as a CSE Professor. Marx is a Continuing Lecturer. A continuing lecturer is a non-Senate faculty member who has completed the equivalent of six years of service in the same department or program and they have been determined to be excellent in the performance of their instructional duties.