CSU alumni could get more privacy from benefit programs

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A new bill now in the California Legislature would ensure privacy for California State University and University of California alumni who sign up to receive benefits or marketing invitations through programs with their former schools.

CSUN currently offers many benefits for alumni, and has for years without this bill, according to officials.

The main reason for the bill is concern for the privacy of alumni’s personal contact information and the possibility of it being passed on to banking and credit card companies.

Senate Bill 569, which passed on consent by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Aug. 17, now moves to the Assembly floor. Both the CSU and UC systems’ various alumni associations support the bill.

“The bill clarifies the confusion on something we have been doing for 30 years,” said Karen Yelverton-Zamarippa, assistant vice chancellor for governmental affairs at the CSU. The bill states that CSU and UC schools can have affinity programs and give out the names to offer these services with protection of privacy.

“CSUN has always stuck to privacy issues,” said Gray Mounger, assistant vice president for Alumni Relations at CSUN. Alumni have the right to choose to sign up for the information or to opt out, Mounger said.

He also said that when alumni sign up, CSUN works with a third party that sends out the information, and that third party signs an agreement to guarantee privacy.

In an article published in the May 2005 issue of CSUN-published magazine “Northridge,” funded by the Alumni Association, the option of being “excluded from – affiliated marketing invitations” is explained. If alumni choose to receive the invitations, they receive discounts and help the university by producing new funding.

The bill includes specific guidelines on how and when the disclosure of the names and addresses of alumni can be given. The article states “the bill would require that these names and addresses of alumni be disclosed only to provide those persons with informational materials relating to the university and its programs and activities.”

“If (the bill is) passed, it is expected to generate an extra $5 million a year to CSU and UC schools,” said Robert Oaks, spokesperson for State Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, who introduced the bill.

The bill could generate more publicity and funds for state universities, according to Oaks, as alumni could be more willing to join programs if they know that their personal information will be kept out of the hands of unwanted direct marketers.

A percentage of the funds the affiliates receive from alumni go to the Alumni Association. The current benefits include a CSUN alumni Visa credit card; health insurance; car, home and rental insurance through Liberty Mutual; and low rates on debt consolidation loans through the Alumni Loan Consolidation Program.

The money would also fund projects and campus events without the aid of public funds, Mounger said.

The majority of the funds collected will go toward scholarships. In the last two years, the CSUN Alumni Association gave $60,000 in scholarships, Mounger said.

“This bill will acknowledge that we have a chance to raise private money,” Yelverton-Zamarippa said. The benefits are more affordable than what alumni can find even the first couple of years on their jobs, she said.

Melanie Saxe can be reached at melaniensaxe@hotmail.com.