Policy Changes International Students' Future

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A recent Department of Homeland Security policy that will lessen the level of privacy granted to international students giving the Federal Bureau of Investigation direct access to databases for tracking foreign visitors, including international students.

"After Sept. 11 , international students' rights were changed anyway," Michael Bistle, director of the Office of International Scholar and Student Services, said.

Previously, the FBI had to ask the Department of Homeland Security for access to information from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.

"This new policy just makes it easier for the FBI to get access to international student records if need-be," Bistle said.

The policy now makes information collected by SEVIS, such as name, date of birth and U.S. destination directly available to the FBI. A digital photo and fingerprint of international visitors may also be accessed.

North Carolina State University protects student records through the Federal Educational Rights of Privacy Act, said Ingrid Schmidt, director of the NCSU Study Abroad Office.

"If the FBI wants records, we can't very well refuse, but I would check with the Office of Legal Affairs before I did anything," Schmidt said. "We only share directory information, such as name, address, date of birth and year in school -- but that is only if the student signs a release."

Damien Didier, a senior in computer science and an international student, commented that security measures in the United States differed greatly from measures in France. When Didier entered the United States, he feared being rejected due to the numerous security measures taken.

"It is too much to ask of the students who are here to study. I know that a lot of people now do not want to go to the U.S. because it is a long wait and a long process," Didier said. "It is a loss of time and money for the U.S. to do this."

Despite drastic changes, Bistle does not anticipate any problems with the new policy at NCSU. "I don't detect anything that will cause a lot of concern. Unless there is a court order to give up information, we don't just volunteer information on international students."

Although no problems may arise as a result of the new policy, Silla Bakalus, an international student from Denmark, does not fully agree with the changes. "I understand why they [the U.S.] do it, but I do not think that it is fair," Bakalus said.