FULLERTON : Student Documents Found in Waste Bin

Hundreds of documents--including Cal State Fullerton student financial aid records, copies of checks and personal information--were recently discovered in a campus recycling bin, university officials confirmed Wednesday.

Campus police are trying to determine who dumped the records, although a student who found the papers said they apparently had been left by the university's office of student aid accounting--the office responsible for disbursing financial aid checks.

Information contained in the documents ranged from telephone numbers and checking account numbers to signatures and Social Security numbers, said student Phillip W. Browne, who found the papers.

Browne, who distributes Cal State Fullerton's student newspaper, the Daily Titan, reportedly discovered the documents early April 26 in a recycling bin usually used for newsprint and student papers.

Browne, also executive editor of the Daily Titan, said he found the documents when he was distributing stacks of the school paper throughout campus.

"Every day, I take the leftover (papers) and throw them in the recycling bin," said Browne, a senior. "That day, I saw piles and piles of shredded documents there. But among them were documents that weren't shredded.

"The things that were in there were amazing--it was like Pandora's box. I kept looking and there was a check register, financial aid records, with names and information."

To Browne, finding university records was a small coup, he said.

"I pulled them out and put them in the pickup truck," Browne said. "When I took them back to the office . . . I realized what they were and locked them up. We didn't want to be responsible for what could happen with them."

Browne took the papers to the office of Cal State Fullerton President Milton A. Gordon, but secretaries did not accept them because they did not originate from the office, he said. The same thing occurred when he took them to the admissions and records department, he said.

Cal State Fullerton spokeswoman Paula Selleck said secretaries "took a quick peek at what it was and realized they were confidential records and directed the students to take them back to the office they were from."

Browne said he finally left the papers with the office of the controller.

University Controller Restituto Prospero did not return several telephone calls Wednesday, and officials from the student aid accounting office could not be reached.

Campus police Detective Thomas Gehrls said he received the documents in his office Wednesday. He said he is investigating to learn the documents' origin and the manner in which such papers are typically recycled, to ensure that nothing similar happens again.

"Obviously somebody made a mistake somewhere," said Gehrls, who added that he has never seen a similar case during his eight years on campus.

"I don't suspect criminal activity," he said. "I don't know if anyone will be charged with anything. . . . I'm not expecting it."

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