V.15 Family Education Rights and Privacy Act
Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974, students have the right to inspect and review most education records maintained about them by the University of Wisconsin-Madison; universities are also required to keep student educational records confidential from third parties absent a written consent signed by the student in question. Ten categories of information (known as "directory information") are considered public unless a student asks that some or all of that information be withheld. The Office of the Registrar, in its capacity as the official custodian of student records, provides information about FERPA compliance as it pertains to students, faculty, and staff (see http://registrar.wisc.edu/ferpa/).
University policy states that:
The Registrar has developed a FERPA tutorial to facilitate the education of staff who are expected to comply with FERPA. Compliance with these regulations is a serious concern for the University, since penalties for non-compliance include withholding of Federal payments from applicable programs. Please note that FERPA can and will affect what have, in the past, been ordinary practices in academia, such as the posting of grades or sharing student contact information.
Keeping Students' Grades Private
On October 9, 2002, John Dowling, Senior University Legal Counsel, issued the following memorandum regarding the common practice of posting student grades:
The advent of e-grading has rendered the details of this memorandum somewhat out of date: students can now access many of their grades online, via My UW. However, the principle that students are not to have access to the scores and grades of others in the class in ways that allow other students to be identified. This includes the practice of putting graded student work (e.g., papers, exams, lab reports) containing student names in publicly accessible places for students to pick up, or giving graded work to someone other than the student to be delivered. (For more information - including a list of other "dont's," please see the Registrar's tutorial on FERPA regulations - http://registrar.wisc.edu/ferpa/faculty/index.php).
Departments should takes steps to communicate this policy to faculty and staff, including teaching assistants, in order to ensure compliance with FERPA.
Sharing Directory Information
Given the ease with which lists of student directory information (name, campus address, e-mail address, etc.) can be constructed using queries put to the UW-Madison Data Warehouse, it is possible for departments or faculty members to distribute contact lists to members of a course, a cohort of majors, students studying with individual professors, or who share an interest on a given subject. People who develop such lists should be sensitive to the "FERPA flag" indicator in the student's directory information record: the preference of students who DO NOT WISH to have their personal information shared is indicated by a "Y" in the FERPA indicator field. Unless these students provide explicit permission for their information to be included in such lists, they should be omitted from any published contact lists.
For a full list of what constitutes directory information, please refer to the Registrar's website, http://registrar.wisc.edu/ferpa/faculty/directory_info.php.
Revised January 16, 2007 (FERPA examples clarified). - emk
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