Today: Apr 23, 2024

Students can withhold information with FERPA

MONICA SZAKACS

News Writer

Under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), universities have the right to disclose directory information contained in a student’s record, unless the student requests to withhold information, according to Ronald Herron, vice president for student and university affairs.

Herron said each person has their own privacy and own space. There are people, said Herron, concerned about identity theft, and some people are more concerned than others to keep their life private.

“There are people who have been victims of scams,” said Herron, “victims of stalkers that have orders of protection and who have moved to start a new life, so they don’t want the person who is after them to find them.”

Justin Phillips, sophomore physics major, said it is good that students have the right to exercise this as an option because some people could be victims of predators.

“There are people out there who try to find someone and stalk them,” said Phillips. “I feel like sometimes students and anyone in general don’t want information available because they know of someone trying to find them and they want to stay hidden.”

The law requires universities to stipulate what data elements they consider as directory information, and universities must inform students, according to Herron.

“It’s been in the catalog and the student handbook,” said Herron. “ It’s on our webpage and we now have done it through e-mail to say this is what we at Southern consider directory information, and that any person calling requiring about you can only get that much information about you.”

Phillips said if a student does withhold the information, then it is their responsibility to remember to reverse the request, but he said students should be notified each year about the withheld data.

A student can exercise the right for the university to withhold the directory information at any time, because it is their record which the student is in control of said Herron. The university only maintains the record; it does not own it, according to Herron. He said students are given the right annually to say do not release the information to anyone.

“If it is requested,” said Herron, “the banner record is marked not to release, so anyone trying to require the information if you are a student, and the secretary pulls up the information which says it cannot be released, then the secretary says ‘sorry I cannot give you that information.’”

There is no deadline said Herron, and if a student exercises their right, then it stays on the record until the student changes it, but the university must give the annual notification.  Herron said sometimes exercising their right can work against a student.

“The downside is that if you forget you did that freshman year,” said Herron, “and now you are applying for a job and the recruiter wants to verify that you were a student here, but you do not exist because you have not gone through the request process for the university to once again disclose that information.”

Herron said students should be aware of the choice, consider it, think carefully and make a conscious decision. Jordan Whittaker, a junior business major, said if students do not like their academic record, then it’s a chance for them to withhold information, but he said he does not think students should disclose their directory information.

“Anybody can lie, like I can say I went to Yale and received straight A’s,” said Whittaker. “It’s almost like a job resume, they look that information up because it is necessary.”

There are some exceptions in the legislation, said Herron, which permits a university to disclose information without the student’s consent or knowledge.  One exception is the National Clearance Houses, which monitor loan and debt nationally, according to Herron.

“So the universities give NCH the students’ identification numbers,” said Herron, “which is not personally identifiable, except they connect it with a social security number, because they monitor transfer rates nationally.”

Another reason why NCH uses the information said Herron, is if a student is on a loan program at one university and would like to transfer. The NCH can keep track of where those loans were generated and whether the student has reached their federal loan max.

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