East Lansing, Mich. (August 8, 2002) — With the help of attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, teaching assistant Samuel Howerton today filed a complaint against Michigan State University (MSU) for illegally disclosing confidential information to union operatives. Howerton filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), after the University violated his rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Under FERPA, a student’s education record cannot be released to a third party without their written consent, and students can ask to have even their basic information kept confidential. The actions of MSU officials thereby violate the federal statute that has been on the books since 1974. Over Howerton’s written objections, and despite repeated assurances to the contrary, the University handed over his confidential information (including his contact information) to the GEU. Howerton is also challenging the University’s policy to disclose to the union how much each teaching assistant is paid and what amount of forced union dues is deducted. Additionally, the disclosure of the amount of the stipend implicitly discloses education background and work history, since the amount of the stipend is directly based on those factors. “University officials have been bending over backwards to help GEU officials impose themselves on dissenting teaching assistants,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “By failing to respect the rights of teaching assistants, MSU is making it easier for union officials to abuse students and threaten the principles of academic freedom.” In violation of FERPA, the University and GEU agreed to have every teaching assistant sign dues deduction authorization/membership cards that effectively operate as a waiver of confidentiality. MSU officials never informed the students that they did not have to sign away their rights under FERPA to prevent third parties from gaining access to their private education records. Howerton is asking the federal government to investigate MSU’s role in providing the GEU with confidential information. In addition, Howerton is asking to have any consent obtained from teaching assistants who were not informed of their rights to be declared invalid, the university to discontinue the dues deduction authorization/ membership program, and MSU officials to provide written notice to all graduate students as to what their rights are under FERPA.