The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Protecting privacy

Athletes and Athletics staff face intense scrutiny - officials should take extra precautionary measures to protect them from embarrassing leaks.

The release of a UNC athlete's name in conjunction with information about his drug test results is an invasion of the student's privacy and should be an embarrassment to officials.

Athletics officials should work with the Office of University Counsel to devise a system to ensure that lapses of this sort do not happen again in the future.

In an article published Wednesday, The (Durham) Herald-Sun noted that an athlete recently suspended from the team for a drug citation might have failed a drug test before. The Herald-Sun cited a letter, obtained through a public-records request, in which the University forgot to black out the player's name.

The letter, obtained by the paper in July, was one of 12 sent to athletes and their parents to notify them of failed drug-test results, The Herald-Sun reported.

By requiring drug tests, officials assume responsibility for protecting the privacy of the students tested. Officials' inability to keep that information secure undermines the trust students should have in them.

Director of Athletics Dick Baddour wrote in an open letter to Tar Heel fans that the incident was a mistake and that "I have been told that the University has apologized to the student-athlete in question."

He also noted that University Counsel was responsible for redacting names and other sensitive information from the letters. University Counsel should have taken the utmost caution to ensure that confidentiality was maintained in the process of releasing records.

But the student in question had his tests required by Athletics, had his information held by Athletics and will continue to be under the supervision of Athletics - not that of University Counsel. Athletics should put pressure on other departments of the University to protect the privacy of student athletes to the highest degree.

Athletes and department staff have come under scrutiny in the past, and Athletics' efforts to shield them haven't always been stellar. But this release incident allows Athletics to take a stand and to push the University further than an apology - the department should pressure University Counsel to ensure that such a careless mistake not happen twice.

UNC owes a great deal to the staff and the athletes who contribute here. Athletics should lead the way in pushing officials to work to protect their privacy in the future.

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