Before I joined Campus Labs as a product manager for Engage (previously CollegiateLink) in 2010 I worked at Duke University as an assistant director in the student activities office. In my role I used Engage, known as Dukegroups at Duke, to register student organizations and events. When we first announced Dukegroups to the student leadership community the very first question that I was asked about the system by a student was "is there a way to hide my name from the public roster of an organization?" This question has stuck with me ever-since. It was important to me as a student affairs professional that I could confidently respond with "yes, you have full control over the public visibility of your name on organization rosters."
The public areas of Engage have been a distinctive part of the application since its early days. Those of us who have created, improved, and maintained the application have always been proud of its ability to make it easy for prospective students, their families, and other community stakeholders to quickly explore all of the wonderful co-curricular experiences that campus' have to offer.
Over time, as the Engage family has grown to over 300 members some campuses have asked for ever-more flexibility in how the privacy controls and assignment of members to organizations work within the system. We have obliged over the years, making CollegiateLink a very powerful yet intricate system to setup. When you add this configuration sophistication to a high-turnover campus administration staff (we've seen up to 10 new primary campus contacts at institutions in the last 5 years), it's easy to conceive that decisions about how the site has been setup can get lost in transition.
The tipping point of sophistication
Additional setup flexibility, staff turnover, and bulk-roster management through involvement imports have all contributed to a condition where current Engage administrators may not be as confident in their ability to answer roster privacy questions as I was. In some rare cases, campuses were creating conditions, perhaps unknowingly, where students were being listed on public rosters before they had an opportunity to determine if they wanted to be shown or hidden. With advances in search engine methods and caching speed this meant that association with an organization may be a part of a person's search result, which isn't ideal for students who are concerned with privacy.
A continued commitment to privacy
We're continuing the process of making it easier for campus administrators to make good decisions about roster privacy by highlighting and simplifying the settings that we provide. Our intention is to ensure that campus administrators, new and old, have a clear understanding of how their rosters are being displayed by default, based on their configuration choices.
We've also modified the system so that no set of configuration options, no matter how rare, can result in a student appearing on a public roster without their explicit consent. We've ensured that campuses who wish rosters to be as complete as possible when displayed to the campus community can configure the site in such a way as well.
Finally, we've also increased the number of places where the system respects and displays a user's preferred first name, making it easier for students to choose how their identity is promoted to other students.
We'll continue to make privacy decisions clear and concise as we add more tools to the system to support your work and we cannot wait to see how creatively you use the system to engage students.