A university has publicly apologized for accidentally sending its students an email that revealed some students asking for deadline extensions due to suicidal ideations. Many students have been furious with its handling of the situation.

The Incident

East Anglia University (UAE) has publicly apologized for accidentally sending to students an email that revealed sensitive information regarding some students’ mental health.

On Friday, a member of the university’s staff accidentally sent out a spreadsheet that showed reasons why students asked for deadline extensions.

This included reasons such as suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety, sexual assault, deaths or serious illnesses of family.

The spreadsheet exposed the university IDs and names of 40 undergraduate students from the Art, Media and American Studies School (AMA) in the university. The email was sent to all 320 students in the American Studies department.

Comments on the Incident

The students whose information has been leaked have said that they feel their trust was violated by the university. Not just that, many have been furious about the lack of courtesy that followed the incident.

American literature student, Megan Baynes, said she is “angry beyond belief.” She found out her information was leaked when her friend contacted her.

“I trusted my department to handle my extenuating circumstances in a sensitive manner, and instead they have quite literally put them on show for the world to see, it’s humiliating.”

The education officer of the university’s student union, Theodore, Antoniou-Phillips said: “This is a shocking and utterly unacceptable data breach that should never have happened.

“There are questions the university needs to answer both about this case itself and the antiquated systems that result in cases like this being logged on rudimentary Excel files in the first place.

“It is particularly galling given that students are required to divulge sensitive information to have an extenuating circumstances upheld.

“The least the university can do is keep their data safe.”

The University’s Apology

The university sent out an email shortly afterwards, saying: “You may have erroneously received an email with a spreadsheet attachment. Could you please delete without opening/reading.”

The university also sent out a tweet, saying: UEA apologizes unreservedly for email sent in error to 320 American Studies students. Affected students can call 01603 592761 for support.”

They sent out a second tweet, saying: “Information regarding today’s email investigation and seeking support can be found here: bddy.me/2sjxSf1.”

Students On the Apology

The university has received a huge amount of backlash regarding their apology. Needless to say, particularly students with mental health issues would already be having issues with reaching out, and so many have been critical that the university sending out a simple tweet asking people to call in for support is an act of disrespect in itself.

One student tweeted back at the university, saying: “You should be reaching out to them! Absolutely disgusting, someone needs to be accountable. Who does your data safety training?”

Sophie Atherton, another student, said that the department was “not very supportive at all.” describing their response to the leak “not good enough.” “There are so many flaws in that department as a whole.”

“I’d like to see handwritten apologies to every single person on that list.” she said.

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