Speaking Out

The following letter was sent to EVP John Fry and to Almanac for publication.

Names For Sale?

The Ombudsman's Office suggested I bring this to your attention. The other evening I received a phone call at home from a telemarketer offering a Visa card from the MBNA Bank of America in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania. After I said no and hung up, I started thinking about the University selling (I assume) a list of their employees to a corporation. How inappropriate! We get enough junk phone calls during the evening which disturbs our personal time with family and friends that I don't need to worry about another one that is due to my employer. Also, if the University is being paid for this information why am I not being reimbursed for being disturbed after work hours, especially when it was done without my permission? What else beside my name and phone # have you given them-my salary perhaps so I can be pitched the appropriate credit card? If you are going to sell employee lists we should be given the opportunity to remove our names off such lists. I am looking forward to your response.

--Stuart B. Moss, Center for Research on Reproduction and Women's Health

Response to Dr. Moss

I am writing in response to the letter you sent to John Fry several weeks ago about the MBNA solicitation. It is my responsibility to respond to you and I apologize for the delay in getting you a prompt answer to your concerns.

The relationship with MNBA has been a positive one since 1997. In essence, MBNA provides the support for a Penn student and alumni campus card that has credit card functionality. My division, Business Services, handles the issues associated with student, faculty and staff mailing, and Alumni Relations coordinates all alumni contacts. Such banking relationships are common on university campuses; the affinity for the institution allows it to obtain unrestricted funding for a number of projects and the financial institution hopes to create and retain consumer relationships that may include a wider array of services. There are currently over 15,000 subscribers for the Penn-branded/MBNA card and an overwhelming number of these subscribers are active, regular customers of the bank.

It is important to note that we do not sell our mailing lists to MBNA. Under terms of our agreement, MBNA is only given a list of names and addresses, and when available, phone numbers. MBNA is expressly forbidden from relaying information to any other institution or party. Each year, there are 3-4 direct mailings and/or telemarketing contacts made to potential customers. If you, or any other individual, wishes to have their name removed from the lists, MBNA will immediately do so. The most likely time period for a contact by phone would generally be in the evening, and unfortunately, you received one of those calls. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act specifically limits the times of day when telemarketers can call (not before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.). We do not have control over when they may call, but we can do something about their approach and whom they contact. Thus, we have brought this recent solicitation effort to the attention of the appropriate MBNA account personnel.

Here's what we are doing to correct the issue

  • Do a better job of "sanitizing" the list of potential contacts to avoid errant or misplaced calls/contacts
  • Inform Penn constituents about the benefits of the relationship and develop ways to opt in or out of the solicitation
  • Work with MBNA to assure that there's appropriate courtesy and understanding of our sensitivities to their approach
  • Ensure that there is supervisory follow-up with any Penn constituent who has a complaint

Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.

--Leroy D. Nunery, Vice President, Business Services

Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues can be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following Tuesday's issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated. --Eds.

Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 3, September 12, 2000