Mistakes happen and sometimes they are just unavoidable. Part of being a human includes occasionally making errors, and that’s likely never going to change. Unfortunately, sometimes those mistakes can profoundly affect a large number of people, no matter how unintentional they might be.
On Nov. 25, an email was sent out to all students registered with a disability at UFV, reminding them to register with disability services if they need to make any special accommodations for the upcoming finals.
However, the email failed to follow standard practice and instead of blinding (bcc) the email addresses of all students registered with a disability, it revealed them.
This was one of those mistakes.
While this is a serious breach of privacy, it’s also a human error — someone literally clicked the wrong button, something that I, and probably most people that regularly use email for their work, have done more than once.
Mistakes like this are bound to happen. Anytime you’re working with people, those people are going to make mistakes at some point and, unfortunately, occasionally those mistakes are going to affect a large amount of people — in this case, 435.
However, what’s also bound to happen, is that people involved could be deeply hurt.
As shared by the Student Union Society (SUS), for some students, having the fact that they have a disability publicized can be life changing.
One student, who wished to remain anonymous, shared their story with SUS and The Cascade, of having an acquaintance see their name on the list and share that with others.
“Before Wednesday, my parents did not know that I have a registered disability. By Thursday morning, they confronted me about my disability and I had to have some really painful and uncomfortable conversations with family which I didn’t think I would ever have to have as a UFV student,” they said.
For this student, the actions that UFV took regarding the incident weren’t enough.
“UFV’s response to the incident feels like the gravity of the situation has been downplayed. The email sent on Wednesday wasn’t just a minor accident that had no impact on students with registered disabilities,” the student said. “Wednesday’s incident has changed how my family looks at me. It’s changed how a lot of people look at me.”
But in this kind of situation, how exactly should UFV have handled things?
UFV followed all of the required procedures: the email was deleted from students’ myUFV inboxes, an email was sent out the same day to all students that received the initial email, and a report was made to UFV’s board of governors, as well as the B.C. privacy commissioner, whom students were also given the contact information for if they wished to file a complaint.
Rather than trying to hide the error, or at least trying their hardest to make sure that as few people as possible knew about the mistake, UFV owned up to it, let students know that it happened, and apologized. The email sent out to students clearly outlined the incident and included a formal apology from the university.
This isn’t easy. No one likes to admit their faults, and when making unintentional errors like this one, most people’s initial response it to hide it, or at least try to play it down where it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.
UFV did their diligence in every way they could, and regardless, people’s lives were changed. So here’s to hoping that when they send out the email offering counselling services to all those affected by the crisis, they don’t make the same mistake again.