By Phil Hill
Based on Thursday’s blog post “Popular Discussion Platform Piazza Getting Pushback For Selling Student Data”, Piazza’s CEO Pooja Sankar invited me to meet at their offices Friday afternoon. Given the nature of Thursday’s post, I offered to publish any statement that Piazza had in response here at e-Literate, an offer they accepted. I will defer further analysis for a few days. – PH
Update: In the process of making copy-editing changes, we accidentally temporarily removed links accessibility and FERPA compliance documentations. They have been restored to the current draft.
Sorry about that.
Statement From Piazza CEO Pooja Sankar
We at Piazza take our obligations to our community of students, professors, and institutions of higher education very seriously. We cherish and safeguard the privacy of our community. But we made a mistake by not engaging and responding to a way befitting of the trust placed in us. Many of our 1500 Universities reached out quite reasonably to enter into legal agreements for the free service. But as a lean, sub-30 person company without in-house legal, we were overwhelmed with all the (expensive) requests for one-off contracts (for a free Q&A service). We handled it poorly. This unfortunately gave people the impression that we were arrogant. You deserve better. We can do better.
We are committed to fixing this. In fact we already have started. We have entered into agreements with Georgia Tech and Brown, and have ongoing engagement with Stanford, UBC and UC Davis. In our conversations universities have been very happy with our policies, practice, and compliance. We are fully committed to entering into contracts with universities that protect students, professors, and the institutions including FERPA, accessibility, and more.
Piazza has two offerings: Piazza Q&A and Piazza Careers. Piazza Q&A is governed by FERPA and is compliant. Piazza Careers is a separate (consumer) product that students opt-in to (and can opt-out of at any time). It helps students and employers connect — to find career opportunities that are compelling and motivating to them. Only opted-in students’ data is accessible to employers. It helps students with the transition from university to their career. Piazza Careers has democratized the access to the best opportunities so it isn’t just the students at Stanford who by virtue of network and proximity have access to the greatest opportunities. Piazza Careers levels the playing field and promotes meritocracy. And from our students’ stand point it is working:
I wanted to reach out and say thank you. Piazza Careers put me on Yelp’s radar, something that I was not able to accomplish through applying directly to the company online. Your support … and inclusion in suggesting changes to Piazza’s core product helped give me the confidence to thrive at Yelp.
Today marks the first day that I will be transitioning to the engineering management team at Yelp, leading a team of 10 highly skilled engineers, and I owe a great deal of gratitude to you and the Piazza product.
– K. W., UMD ’14 Grad (shared with permission)
As a final note, any institution that has reached out before or wants to going forward has my personal commitment ([email protected]) to responsive, meaningful engagement befitting the trust you place in us and the respect we have for you.
- In fact at UC Davis we now have an agreement in principle, but the lawyers can’t sign it until a professor asks for it via a formal procurement process. [↩]