Students in the anatomy and physiology course at Polk Community College last fall might have thought it odd that the instructor asked them to sign in for each class on a roster that asked for their names and Social Security numbers, since that wasn't the college's policy.
But if any of them were perplexed, they kept it to themselves, because officials at the Florida two-year institution didn't find out about the situation until last week, when the former instructor, Bradley Neil Slosberg, and his girlfriend were arrested for allegedly using the students' personal information to make purchases for themselves.
Officials in the Polk County Sheriff's Office said the two were arrested and charged with eight offenses each, including forgery, criminal use of personal identification and scheming to defraud. They are being held on $8,000 bond each.
Slosberg was an adjunct instructor hired for just that one course, said Thomas Dowling, a spokesman for the college. Slosberg's hiring coincided with the college's implementation in fall 2004 of a new system of fingerprinting and background checks for all full- and part-time employees, although Dowling said that because the process of instituting the new procedures was a bit bumpy, he could not say for sure whether a background check was done on Slosberg himself. And Polk County officials said they could not provide information on whether Slosberg had a criminal record that would have shown up in such a check.
Still, the current situation confirms for the community college that the background checks are a good idea, Dowling said.
The college is also putting in place a new computer system that by next year will phase out the use of Social Security numbers and replace them with student identification numbers after an applicant has been accepted to the two-year institution, Dowling said.
"We already use a student identification number for class rosters, and so Social Security numbers are not being distributed en masse to the faculty and staff," said Dowling. But he said that going forward, the college would more clearly inform students that it is phasing out Social Security numbers and that there are relatively few staff members at Polk who have a legitimate reason to ask them for that information.
"This whole situation is such a shame for the profession in general," said Dowling.