Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974
(FERPA)

Institutional Procedures Relating to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA)

A. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 ("FERPA" or "the Act") codified previously adopted policies of Franklin & Marshall College concerning the rights of students to the confidentiality of their education records and to the rights of students to have access to such records. However, the Act makes certain rights and procedures explicit and requires that the College establish certain procedures to ensure that the purpose of the Act is achieved. The full Act and the regulations thereunder are available at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/reg/ferpa/index.html.

The major features of the Act are the identification of education records of students, the right of student access to such records, the opportunity of students to correct or amend these records when warranted and the privacy of the records. The following paragraphs summarize the Act and the procedures used at Franklin & Marshall College for the implementation of the Act.

1. Definition of Education Records

Education records are defined by the Act as those records, files, documents, and other materials that contain information directly related to a student and are maintained by the College or an agent of the College. Students will be notified of their FERPA rights annually by publication in the Catalog. These records include:

     a.  Admission folders and materials held in the Office of Admission until transferred to the Registrar’s Office.

     b. Academic records, grade reports, transcripts of grades, major and minor declaration forms, and such other information as may appear on the College transcript held in the Registrar’s Office.

     c.  Records and documents related to the decisions of the Committee on Academic Status and the Student Conduct Committee and general information regarding the student’s curricular and extracurricular performance and activities, held in the office of Student Affairs.

     d.  Records held by those advising and evaluating students, such as academic advisers, the Health Professions Advisory Committee, the Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development, Faculty Dons, and House Deans.

     e.  Records and documents held in the Office of Financial Aid.            

Further information about files, their location and their custodian is in the Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty.

2. Privacy of Student Education Records

     a.  Release of Student Education Records: No education record shall be released by the College or its agents, nor shall access be granted thereto without the consent of the student except as hereinafter provided in paragraph 2.b. below, or as otherwise provided by law. Student requests for the release of information may be made by completing the forms provided for the purpose with the officer of the College holding such education record(s).

     b.  Release of Records Without Student Consent: The Act provides for exceptions to the necessity of the College obtaining a student’s consent before releasing or permitting access to that student’s records. General exceptions include the following:

          1)    School officials who have a legitimate educational interest in the records. School officials include: l) any persons employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position; 2) a person elected to the Board of Trustees; 3) a person employed by or under contract to the College to perform a special task; or 4) a student serving on an official committee or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official is l) performing a task that is specified in his or her job description or by a contract agreement; 2) performing a task related to a student’s education; 3) performing a task related to the discipline of a student; or 4) providing a service or benefit relating to the student or student’s family or guardian(s), such as health care, counseling, job placement, or financial aid.

          2)    Authorized representatives of government who need the information to audit, to oversee, or to administer the Act, federally supported education programs, or financial obligations of the College or the student.

          3)    Organizations conducting studies concerning the validity of predictive tests, administering student aid programs, or improving instruction, if such studies are conducted in such a manner that specific students cannot be identified in the publication of the results and provided such information will be destroyed when it is no longer needed for the purpose for which the study was made.

          4)    Accrediting organizations for the performance of their accrediting function.

          5)    Parents or guardians of a student who have established with the Office of Student Affairs or the Registrar (depending on the record sought) that student’s status as dependent according to the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, Section 152.

          6)    Information required by judicial order, or any lawfully issued subpoena, to be released on condition that in most cases the student will be notified in advance of compliance so that the student may seek protective action.

          7)    In the event of a health or safety emergency, information may be released to appropriate persons without the consent of the student if such information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or of other persons.

          8)    Officials of another school, upon request, at which a student seeks or intends to enroll.

          9)    In connection with a student’s request for, or receipt of, financial aid, as necessary to determine the eligibility, amount or conditions of the financial aid, or to enforce the terms and conditions of the aid.

          10)  If required by a state law requiring disclosure that was adopted before
November 19, 1974.

Complaints regarding alleged failures by Franklin & Marshall College to comply with the requirements of FERPA should be forwarded to:

                Family Policy Compliance Office

                U.S. Department of Education

                400 Maryland Avenue, SW

                Washington, D.C. 20202-5920

     c.  Directory Information: Neither the Act nor these procedures preclude the publication by the College of directory information providing that the student has not withdrawn consent for the publication of or electronic access to such information. This directory information includes and is limited to the following:

          1)    Name, home address, home phone number, local address, local phone number, e-mail address, photograph, and names and addresses of parents or guardians.

          2)    Name and address of secondary school attended, periods of enrollment and degrees awarded, academic major(s) and minor (when applicable), date of graduation, confirmation of signature, and membership in College organizations.

          3)    Such information as is normally included on rosters and programs prepared for athletic contests.

          4)    Announcement of the granting of honors, awards and other accomplishments.

                   Students may withhold directory information in any or all of the above categories by indicating their wishes on the appropriate screen on Inside F&M or by contacting the Office of the Registrar. Students are responsible for any impact that such an action may have and should carefully consider the consequences. Questions should be directed to the Office of the Registrar.

3. Access to Education Records

Subject to the procedures and the exceptions contained below, students have a right of access to the records described in Section A1., above, a right to challenge the accuracy of these records, and a right to have explanations or comments on these records placed in their file. They also have a right to have copies of their records with a payment to cover the costs of duplication.

     a.  The Act contains exceptions to the general right of students to access to files and documents. These exceptions are:

          1)    Confidential statements and letters placed in the files prior to
January 1, 1975, and confined in their use to the purposes for which they were intended.

          2)    Confidential letters and statements to which students have waived a right of access.

          3)    Notes, statements, records, documents or other papers that are kept in the sole possession of the maker thereof and are not accessible to others (such as private notes made by professors, academic advisers, or administrators that are purely personal reminders of an event or fact that they may or may not use in a subsequent decision such as determining a grade in a course, advising as to courses, etc.).

          4)    Records and documents of the Department of Public Safety.

          5)    Records used in connection with the medical, psychological, or psychiatric treatment of the               6)    Confidential financial records of students’ parents or guardians.

     b.  Waiver of Access. A student may waive a right of access to confidential statements and letters submitted as part of his or her admissions dossier, but this waiver does not apply if the letters or statements are used for purposes other than to make a judgment about the admission of the student to Franklin & Marshall College. Students may also waive a right of access to confidential recommendations respecting admission to another college or university, a graduate or professional school, or for other opportunities such as internships. Authors of such letters will give the student an opportunity to waive a right of access to such letters of recommendation as they may write. Students may also waive a right of access to confidential recommendations concerning application for employment or receipt of an honor or honorary recognition.

     c.  Access Procedure. Students who wish to review their records may do so by submitting an application to the appropriate officer of the College on a form provided for the purpose that shall identify what part of the education records the student wishes to review. Within 45 days of the submission of the application, a representative of the College office responsible for maintaining those records will provide the student with the records and documents to which the student is entitled and will provide such explanations or comments as the student may require for clarification. Should the student challenge any part of the folder, file, document, or record, the Provost (or designee) shall try to resolve the matter by such informal means as discussion and/or deletion of erroneous material, addition to the record of an explanatory statement, or such other remedy as is deemed appropriate in the judgment of the Provost (or designee) and the student.

          If the challenge to the content of the record cannot be resolved by such informal means, a hearing shall be held within a reasonable time to resolve the matter, and the decision of the hearing panel will be final. The hearing panel (all three members of which are to be drawn from the College community) will be made up of a member chosen by the student, a member chosen by the Provost, and a member chosen by the Provost's representative and the student’s representative.

          The decision of the hearing panel will be rendered within ten days of the hearing, will be in writing, and will be delivered to the student and the Provost.

     d.  Record of Access. Those officers under whose care the records are kept shall maintain a log of the names of those who have requested or been granted access to a student’s record, the dates of all such transactions, and the legitimate interest of each person in obtaining this information.

     e.  Limited Scope and Purpose of Student Review of Records. It is not the intention of the Act or these procedures to provide a forum for challenging course grades, the decisions of the Committee on Academic Status, the Student Conduct Committee, or any other committee or office of the College assigned the responsibility to make judgments. Rather, it is the intention of the Act and these procedures to make known to students the informational base upon which decisions included in the education records are made and to allow corrections of that information or inclusion of explanatory statements.

4. Administration of Policy and Procedures

The Provost shall have general oversight of the administration of the Act and the above procedures. Questions concerning the matters covered by these procedures and the Act should be directed to the Provost.

Recommendations for changes and amendments to these regulations will be welcomed by the Provost, and such changes as experience demonstrates should be made will be made in a manner and at such times as conform to Franklin & Marshall procedures.

5. FERPA for Families

Franklin & Marshall College recognizes the critical role that parents and families play in supporting their student’s growth and development through college.  With that in mind, the College has established the following policy with regard to the release of information from students’ education records; the policy is intended to balance the autonomy conveyed by the Federal regulations to the student with the vital support system provided by parents and guardians.  

As noted within the FERPA regulations above, the right to release information from their records transfers from parents to students upon their enrollment in a post-secondary institution, even when the student is under age 18.   This means that, with a few exceptions, disclosures from the education records are to be made only upon the student’s written consent.  

One of the exceptions within the regulations is that the College may release information to the student’s parents or guardians without the student’s written permission when the student is determined to be a dependent according to the Internal Revenue Code of 1854, Section 154.  

Though disclosure is permitted, in most cases Franklin & Marshall does not release student records under this provision.  The core of this policy surrounds our particular circumstances as a residential institution. It has been the College’s belief in the importance of building a relationship of trust between the student and the institution, which becomes especially critical with the health and safety considerations that come into play in a residential environment.  

Instances in which Franklin & Marshall will release information to parents of dependent students:

     a.  Change in a Student’s Standing:

          1)    Franklin & Marshall believes students are ultimately responsible for their academic performance.  However, when a student is placed on advisory status at the end of a semester as a result of low semester and/or cumulative GPA, parents of dependent students will receive notification, so that they may provide support as the student develops a plan to improve for the subsequent semester.

          2)    Additionally, when a student is placed on academic suspension as a result of either failing all courses in a semester or failing to meet the appropriate cumulative GPA threshold, parents of dependent students will be notified, so that they may provide support as the student makes plans for their time away from F&M.

          3)    Finally, parents will be notified when a student’s change in status occurs as a result of disciplinary action.