Meet the software company that tracks college student behavior

Maxient manages student behavior records for more than 1,300 higher education institutions

Over 1,300 colleges and universities across the country maintain student behavior records on various “things related to a student’s behavior and well-being” with the same software company: Maxient.

Founded in 2003, the software company offers customer schools the ability to create online reporting forms and keep records of student behavior.

“Whether it’s student discipline, academic integrity, care and concern records, Title IX matters, or just an ‘FYI’, Maxient’s Behavior Manager has you covered for all things related to the behavior and well-being of a student,” the company’s website says.

Lance Watson, senior client support specialist at Maxient, told The College Fix via email, “The schools that use a Maxient system are in control of how they use it and even how they customize it,” e.g. B. how they identify the types of processes or problems can be tracked.

According to the company’s website, Maxient receives 7,000 reports a day from customer schools ranging “from small private liberal arts colleges to the largest public institutions in the country.”

One process that the software may facilitate is bias reporting systems, which nearly 500 higher institutions across the US have implemented over the past eight to 10 years to address student behavior that is perceived as “bias.”

“We usually help schools implement the software for their intended purposes when we start working with them, so we’ve certainly had some (indications) over the years that they’ll be using it for ‘biased incidents’,” Watson told The Fix. In addition, the term itself can have different meanings depending on the school.

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“But most schools expand over time in the different types of records and processes they maintain in their software, and Maxient staff are typically not informed or kept up to date,” he added.

Watson says it’s up to customer schools to determine how long records are retained — and when and if they are deleted.

“As with the rest of their Maxient system, control over when records are removed rests entirely with the college or university and their users in the system. Your authorized staff can delete records themselves without ever consulting or notifying our staff,” Watson told The College Fix.

The company’s product was recently reviewed at the national level.

Popular psychologist and expert Jordan Peterson tagged the company in a mid-February tweet: “If there was a George Orwell Foundation award in 1984, @maxient would deserve to win it.”

If there was a George Orwell Foundation award in 1984, @maxient deserved to win it.

– dr Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) February 13, 2023

Maxient was also quoted in a Feb. 23 Wall Street Journal article headlined “Stanford Faculty Say Anonymous Student Bias Reports Threaten Free Speech.”

“The reports are stored on a platform operated by a third-party provider called Maxient, a Charlottesville, Virginia-based company that has contracts with 1,300 schools — mostly colleges and universities across the US,” said the company’s co-owner Aaron Hark . Only Maxient and a small number of people in the student affairs office have access to the files, he said [Stanford spokeswoman Dee] Mostofi. She declined to say how long they will be stored,” the Journal reported.

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And a Feb. 20 op-ed in the Washington Times by Richard Rahn, Chair of the Institute for Global Economic Growth, wrote: “Maxient boasts of having a national archive that receives about 7,000 gossip reports daily from 1,300 client institutions. (Remember Lenin’s old joke: ‘The capitalists will sell us the rope by which we will hang them.’)”

“Students are often unaware that negative reports have been filed about them, and many colleges ignore constitutional protections from due process,” he added. “A negative report, even if based on incorrect information, can result in a student losing their scholarship or even being expelled – with negative repercussions for the rest of their life.”

In addition to privacy concerns, some critics claim that when colleges and universities use software like Maxient, it creates a centralized system that can easily aggregate statistics that can then be used to prove bias and then encourage more spending and the expansion of diversity, equity and Efforts to justify inclusion.

Watson told The Fix that only the customer’s college or university can access the data, which they can authorize or restrict among faculty and staff.

“Schools using a Maxient system can set up comprehensive restrictions within their system to restrict access to records to specific staff users in the system based on any number of factors, as that school deems appropriate and consistent with their own guidelines,” said Watson.

Information held by Maxient falls under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, if the records pertain to students in higher education institutions that accept federal funds.

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“Under FERPA, colleges and universities are required to do two important things with student education records: (1) provide access to those records for the student concerned and provide a reasonable opportunity to submit a request for correction of information to be placed within the data record; and (2) otherwise keep the recordings confidential and limit their disclosure except as expressly permitted by law,” Watson said.

In other words, students have the right to see any complaints filed against them.

“In order for a college or university to work with Maxient, or any of the many other companies in the same business that provide student records management software to colleges and universities, Maxient must agree in their contract with each college or university to abide by the same boundaries and not to disclose student education records or other confidential information,” Watson said.

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