Students are constantly under review. Almost everything we create in one of the campus’s classrooms is subject to the analytical, judgmental gaze of professors who will reward us or punish us with some sort of grade or score. However unwelcome this surveillance may be, the school environment trains students to expect someone looking over our shoulders, as we peaceably hand over work for review. Other types of surveillance, though, may just be unwelcome, unexpected and, worst of all, undetected.

When Congress meets on Jan. 3, the issue at hand will be the USA Patriot Act, as some of its provisions are set to expire at the end of the year. While debate on the Patriot Act has been constant since its passage, the looming occasion of its possible renewal or amendment is inflaming debate. Students are now presented with the opportunity to learn about how the Patriot Act affects them and their freedoms, and take the time to act against the act before it is renewed-or even strengthened.

When it comes to their rights, many students either don’t know, don’t care, or experience an unfortunate mixture of both. To those students, The Skyline View asks, “How would you feel if your parents rummaged through your drawers? Or if your little brother were to read your diary?” The feelings evoked by these thoughts should be no different from what you feel when you think of a law that similarly infringes upon your right to privacy.

Skyline College has many foreign students in attendance, and these students have the most to worry about. One part of the Patriot Act, the Student Exchange and Visitor Infosystem Act, creates an electronic database of all foreign students and their information for the government’s easy access and retrieval. On a practical level, it means more inconvenient paperwork and a possible extra interview before being admitted as a foreign student. It also presents yet another obstacle to foreign students who are already struggling to assimilate into a different culture, and now are singled out and truly made to feel like outsiders. In addition to the anxiety inherent in college life, a system made specifically to track students purely based on their country of origin causes unecessary apprehension.

Any student in the process of transferring is familiar with the mountain of paperwork that must be transferred from one institution to another. Within the mass of transcripts and applications, information ranging from students’ Social Security numbers to income information, as well as prior records from previously attended schools are all held in a student’s record. Prior to the creation of the Patriot Act, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 protected students from the release of their records without the requestor first notifying and obtaining permission from the student. The Patriot Act allows for the release of such formerly private records to the government through a secret court order, as long as it is done in the “fight against terrorism.” With the creation of confusing new “G00” numbers to replace our social security numbers for identification in the name of privacy, why should this mentality not extend to records that contain much more information?

The release of library records is another provision, although not the last, to affect students and their privacy. For students, libraries become more than a necessity, they become second homes. Skyline students must register for a Peninsula Library card in order to use the computers in the lab. Most students can testify that they check out many different materials for various papers. Now, the footprints that students leave on their library cards are also subject to investigation by the government. Students are forced to look over their shoulders, worried that the texts they check out may paint a misleading portrayal of them as terrorists.

Students become so caught in the routine of school that they often forget what they should actually be using their colleges for: learning. The Skyline View reminds students of this goal, and hope that they keep it in mind and take the initiative to find out how laws like the Patriot Act are impacting their lives. Educate yourselves and make a difference, so that it is you that has the greatest influence on what you experience on your very own campus.