As members of the university community, we feel a sense of openness in our dealings with one another. However, instructors and students alike are obligated to respect the privacy of members of this community and to safeguard that privacy when it is threatened. Certain information is protected by a federal law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 As Amended (FERPA).
Individual student class grades and grade point averages are confidential information, protected by FERPA, and should never be posted publicly or announced without the student's permission in such a way that others could identify the student with his or her particular grade.
Graded exams, papers, and homework should never be left outside of office doors or otherwise unattended for students to claim; this is a violation of FERPA and an invitation to theft. Instructors should return graded material to students individually, in class or in office hours, or should arrange to mail final material to students once the semester has ended.
Social Security numbers
The university uses Social Security numbers as student identification numbers. For this reason, official class rosters and grade verification sheets list the student's Social Security number along with the student's name and class rank. These lists should be kept safe and should never be posted or circulated, even with the name removed. Even posting grade lists with only the last four digits of the Social Security number is a violation of FERPA. You may *not* post lists of grades using the final four digits.
Letters of recommendation
Students may ask you to write letters recommending them for jobs, scholarships, or graduate study. To insure compliance with FERPA, you should ask students to put such requests in writing (including e-mail) and to specify what information is appropriate for you to address in the recommendation. A form for this purpose is available from the Office of Undergraduate Studies and is included as an insert, suitable for photocopying, at the back of the printed copy of this booklet. Many schools or agencies have specific recommendation forms to which students waive their rights of access and which specify categories of information to address. Even when the student has waived access to the form, you should be careful not to divulge information that may be confidential, such as grade point averages or course grades, without the student's specific consent.
Colleagues may ask you informally to recommend specific students for jobs or projects. While you should refuse to divulge specific information about students without their knowledge or written consent, you may be able to satisfy such an inquiry with general statements. For example, when asked how a recommended student is performing in your class, you might say "Kim is in the upper third of the class" or "I never recommend anyone with a grade point average below 3.5."
Enrollment verification requests
Enrollment verification requests by organizations such as banks, loan agencies, and scholarship foundations are to be completed by the Office of the Registrar and not by individual instructors.
Inquiries by third parties
The following information is provided by Joel A. Makee, University Attorney, and is current as of August 19, 1998.
The Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act ("FERPA") governs the release of personally identifiable information from student records. Unless disclosure is permitted under certain specific exceptions, University personnel may not disclose information about a student to third parties without that student's prior written consent.
Third parties include parents*, spouses, law enforcement or other government agencies, prospective employers, and any other person or entity not part of the University. For this reason, it is not appropriate to have any conversations about student academic performance, job qualifications or personal characteristics with third parties unless the student has authorized you to do so in writing.
One of the exceptions to FERPA's non-disclosure rule permits the disclosure of information the University has designated as "Directory Information." Directory Information includes name; address; telephone listing; e-mail address; date and place of birth; major field of study; dates of attendance; degrees and awards received; participation in officially recognized sports and activities; and weight and height for members of athletic teams. Such information may be disclosed unless a student has made a written request to the University Registrar that it be withheld.
If approached by law enforcement agencies, whether local, state, or federal, please do not disclose information about students. Please refer all law enforcement calls or inquiries about students directly to the University Attorney's Office (109 Adelbert Hall, 368-4286). Other government agencies and third parties should likewise be referred to the University Attorney's Office when seeking information about students.
* The University is permitted, however, to disclose personally identifiable information from student educational records to parents of dependent students. Determination of whether a student is dependent is made jointly by the University Attorney's Office and the Office of Financial Aid.
The University Attorney is the designated official custodian of all CWRU records for legal purposes. This designation is intended to save time and resources for the schools and management centers, while at the same time protecting the University's legal interests, since the official custodian of records is often required to appear in court and/or to explain and certify the authenticity of University records. Therefore, all subpoenas received by any CWRU school, department, or office should be forwarded immediately to the Office of the University Attorney. In addition, all communications with the attorney who caused the subpoena to be issued and/or any party to whom the subpoena refers shall only be through the Office of the University Attorney.
Protocol for Attorney Communications
In order to protect the University's legal interests, all communications with attorneys outside the University must be through the University Attorney's Office. Therefore, any CWRU school, department, or office that is contacted by an outside attorney should immediately refer that attorney to the Office of the University Attorney.
Chapter Seven: If You Leave the University
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