Financial records left in unlocked room after Iowa Wesleyan closed

TV6 Investigates learns professor found thousands during open house
Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 10:34 AM CST
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MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa (KWQC) - Hundreds wandered the campus buildings at Iowa Wesleyan University’s last goodbye.

The school closed its doors when it ran out of money 181 years after it opened.

Most major items were auctioned off. And a final open house was held this fall for the public to take whatever they wanted, just to clear the buildings out.

Some were looking for souvenirs from years of Wesleyan history. Others were there for classroom furniture.

A former professor was looking for a filing cabinet.

But she was stunned when she entered Room 303. Scattered around were thousands of pages of confidential student and staff records.

Names, addresses and Social Security numbers – data that puts people at risk for identity theft.

“This is unacceptable, both as a parent and an educator,” she said. “This is completely unacceptable to have this information left out for the public to just procure at their own leisure. This is, this is not OK.”

The professor wasn’t sure what to do, so she gathered as many papers she could. It took her half an hour to fill a banker’s box worth of documents, and then she took them home.

The professor reached out to TV6 Investigates because she didn’t know what to do. She asked to not be identified for this story.

So we started asking questions.

LeRoy Rooker is the nation’s leading authority for student privacy. He led the U.S. Department of Education’s student privacy division for 21 years.

He said those records should have been transferred along with the other records to another institution to be the new custodian.

“Or they should have been destroyed. They should have never been left as unprotected and available for anyone who might walk in to take them with them.”

A website informed students their information was going to the University of Iowa.  A University spokesman told me Iowa took Wesleyan’s academic records, but nothing financial.

Messages to Wesleyan’s former president went unanswered.

Meanwhile, the professor has called the FBI.

While she waits for an answer, she still has the documents and wonders why they were left behind.

“And I don’t understand how this could have happened with our financial aid documents. I just don’t understand.”

Experts say to reach out to your financial institution and the major credit institutions if you believe your data has been breached. The government offers more online information on what to do about suspected identity theft: