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Saturday, March 02, 2024

With fall registration in full swing this week, some students in the UF Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering are upset by the resignation of their only adviser following an investigation into two student privacy violations.

On March 13, Steve Permann, the department's only undergraduate adviser, submitted a letter of resignation. Though the resignation is not effective until May 15, Permann's last day was March 6, which has left the department without an official adviser.

Mark Law, the department chair, said in a forum held to address the concerns of students in the program on March 17 that the department probably would not hire a new adviser until fall. The responsibility of advising students before they can register-a requirement in the department-has fallen on Marcy Lee, a program assistant who has worked with Permann for the past year. Lee has directed students with questions she can't answer to professors. But many students just want the guidance of Permann, who advised in the department for 12 years and was familiar with faculty and courses.

"I am worried about registration. I feel lost. I'm not going to go to my professors because I feel like they only know about that class," said Suzanne Delica, an electrical engineering junior and president of Women in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and Eta Kappa Nu, both student organizations, have set up peer advising in response to help undergraduates pick their summer and fall classes.

Brian Sapp, an electrical engineering graduate student who has served as president of both organizations in the past, said peer advising is important because students need a resource to help choose "manageable schedules."

Delica said that is what Permann was good at.

"Steve kept it real. He told you who to take. Not to say he swayed my decision, but he gave me the foresight to make my decisions," she said.

Students are especially frustrated because top-level administrators have remained tight-lipped on the circumstances surrounding Permann's sudden resignation.

At the advising forum, Law repeatedly avoided questions about Permann.

"I'm not allowed to discuss the details of Steve's situation, and that's really all I can say about it," Law said.

However, the privacy report concerning the situation surrounding Permann's resignation was available under the Freedom of Information Act.

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On Aug. 21 and Sept. 3, Permann accessed student record information without authorization, according to the report. An investigation by the UF Privacy Office recommended the dismissal of Permann, according to the report.

Permann did not return repeated e-mails from the Alligator and a working phone number could not be obtained.

UF spokesman Steve Orlando would not comment on the situation, but said although advisers are able to access any student's records, they are only authorized to access records of students whom they are advising.

Support for Permann from students has been strong. An online petition titled "Stop the forced resignation of Steve Perman" had 326 signatures as of Wednesday night, including some from UF alumni. Clinton Rodgers, an electrical engineering senior, is organizing a good-bye party for Permann tonight to give student closure on the situation.

"When I first heard the news I was like, 'Man I wish I could just hug him,'" Rodgers said. "He was a great guy. He was responsible for 1,000 kids and he knew us."

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