Republicans Cut Up Democrat Hyperbole With Facts As Student Privacy Bill Fails

The issue over privacy for student directory information is something manufactured by North Dakota Democrats as a campaign issue.

In an election day stunt a group of Democrat lawmakers (including an attorney and a law student who really ought to know better) filed a criminal complaint over the use of student directory information by Odney Advertising, a Republican-aligned marketing company. Odney, specifically, sent emails to the accounts of students after having obtained that information via an open records request to the North Dakota University System.

The stunt was widely covered at the time. Less widely covered (not covered at all, near as I can tell, outside of SAB) was the rejection of the complaint by prosecutors who could find no criminal wrong-doing.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]According to Cook there were just 120 unsubscribe requests total, or less than 1 percent of the total. That seems to run contrary to the “uprising” Nelson described in her speech.[/mks_pullquote]

But that didn’t stop Democrats from introducing legislation to make student directory information private. That bill, SB2133 requested by the State Board of Higher Education, came to the Senate floor for a vote today.

“There was quite an uprising on several campuses when students learned the information they thought was private was used for political purposes,” said Senator Carolyn Nelson  (D-Fargo) who carried the Government and Veterans Affairs Committee’s “do pass” recommendation to the floor. I think Nelson is imagining things, because outside of some partisan posturing by Democrats, I’m not sure this was really an issue for most students.

In response to Nelson’s speech, Senator Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks) stood and said that he understands that students don’t want to get political emails “Well neither do I,” he said, “but I don’t get that choice.”

“I think students should have the same level of exposure to our political missives as the rest of us,” he added.

Probably the most devastating argument against the bill came from Senator Dwight Cook (R-Mandan) who cut through some of the hyperbole from Democrats with a few key facts.

“The agency sent out 96,000 emails to 48,000 people,” he said, referring to Odney. That adds up to two emails for each student. Hardly a deluge of information.

And as for the students not wanting the information, as Senator Nelson claimed? According to Cook there were just 120 unsubscribe requests total, or less than 1 percent of the total.

That seems to run contrary to the “uprising” Nelson described in her speech.

The vote on the bill was fairly close though, failing 20-26.

Rob Port is the editor of, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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