Found: Missing Tenn. State Univ. Flash Drive PDF Print E-mail
By The Meter Staff -- Black College Wire   
Tennessee State University officials have confirmed that a missing flash drive containing more than 9,000 students' Social Security numbers was recovered Monday, Sept. 15.

Melvin Johnson
Tennessee State President Melvin N. Johnson said in a town hall meeting and subsequent press conference that a student, who had used the flash drive for saving a homework assignment, returned the drive at approximately 9 p.m. on Sept. 12.

Johnson did not indicate whether the student tampered with the information on the device, but informed the university that the flash drive is back in the university's possession and that state auditing officials would investigate further.

The recovery of the drive came after the following situation was reported.

A financial aid counselor reported the flash drive missing Tuesday morning, Sept. 9, after discovering that it was no longer in her possession, administrators said. The counselor's name was not released.

The flash, which contained financial records of TSU students dating back to 2002, was last seen the previous evening. "The loss of this data is unfortunate," said Tennessee State Provost Robert Hampton. "It is imperative that we protect our students' personal information."

University personnel began notifying students the same week about the security breach, although no attempts to use the data had been discovered, administrators said.


Students’ reactions ranged from disappointment to anger.

"I think it's irresponsible. I really think that someone misplaced it, but that kind of stuff should be closely guarded," said Charity King, a senior nursing major from Nashville, Tenn.

"I feel that it is ridiculous and irresponsible for them to be unorganized, unorthodox and unprofessional," said Damarrion Fleming, a mechanical engineering major from Louisville, Ky.

Demetria Daily, a senior criminal justice major from Jackson, Tenn., agreed, calling the loss of the data  "irresponsible" and "unprofessional."

Students whose numbers were lost will be sent notification from university personnel by Friday, September 19, the provost said.

In the meantime, officials are urging students to look for signs of identity fraud and suggesting they place a fraud alert on their credit reports.

 According to, TSU will offer credit protection to all students whose records were compromised. In addition, mandatory staff training on privacy and proper handling of information will be held for those employees who have access to sensitive student records.

 University officials don't believe the missing flash drive was encrypted or password-protected, although TSU policy requires Social Security numbers be stored in protected data files.

The incident is under investigation by TSU's Department of Internal Audit. The employee has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation, administrators said.

This latest incident comes after a week of problems at the university. The school dropped 400 students who could not pay tuition, after raising money from the community and employees to help 900 others. The school also announced it would have to lay off some employees due to a $6 million budget shortfall.

Acquanetta Donnell contributed to this report. Portions of this article were originally published in The Meter, the Tennessee State University student newspaper.

Posted Sep. 14, 2008
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