President Pollack reasserts student privacy protections

Dear Cornell Community,

Earlier today, an independent contractor for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) arrived on the Ithaca campus to conduct a routine background check related to an individual’s application for a job with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. When the contractor identified himself at a visitor booth, a false rumor quickly circulated across campus and on social media that the visitor was an officer of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It is understandable, in light of recent, local action by ICE, that this news—while inaccurate—would be met with great concern.

I would like to use this opportunity to remind all members of our campus community that Cornell will continue to vigilantly protect the privacy of student information and records from any unauthorized disclosure in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The university has clear policies in place in this regard, and I have asked Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, to communicate them to all staff in the colleges and schools and within the Division of Student and Campus Life.

I also want to remind you, as previously stated by former president Hunter Rawlings, that while Cornell representatives, including Cornell University Police Department, will comply with lawfully issued subpoenas and warrants, it is neither the university’s practice nor expectation to function as an agent of the federal government regarding enforcement of federal immigration laws. I firmly stand behind that position.

Among the greatest strengths of our campus community is its diversity. As we acknowledge and celebrate that diversity, we will work to continually support and defend the most vulnerable among us.


Martha E. Pollack