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Editorial

FERPA’s role with student information

December 12, 2018

There are many students on campus that are unaware of how their personal information can become public once they register to become a student here at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Student privacy is protected under the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). According to the university website, FERPA laws govern “The release of student education records maintained by the university, and access to these records.”

Students have the right to review their records, and they may request to make changes to them. Also, students can dictate to a degree the level of disclosure of the information held in these education records.

Parents or guardians do not have access to the records of students. According to the document, “Basic FERPA rules for UWRF school officials,” UW-River Falls officials are considered to have a “legal, legitimate educational interest” and are allowed access to student education records. However, school officials may only use these records for performing their jobs “professionally and responsibly.”

UWRF school officials have to secure the privacy of education records and “not disclose personally identifiable information about a student or permit inspection of the student’s records without his or her written consent.”

Providing consent entails writing which record is to be released, who it is to be released to, and giving a reason for the release. This information must be provided by the student who wishes to release their information.

Unless a restriction has been put in place, there is some information that does not require any student consent to release to a non-UWRF party, and that is directory information. According to the FERPA rules document, directory information includes the students name, address, email address, telephone number, dates of attendance, year in school, degree programs, previous institutions attended, awards and more.

There are some students who feel that this is an invasion of their privacy as their name, addresses, e-mail’s, cell phone numbers, and student ID numbers are available for the public to find in the student directory online. Students do have the right to withhold this information as they can fill out a request to disclose directory information to the public.

This can be done by going to uwrf.edu/Registrar/CurrentStudents/StudentDirectoryInformation.cfm on the university’s website and printing out the form to disclose their personal information to public access. Once completed, it can be dropped off at the Registrar’s Office at 105 North Hall. The form must be submitted to the office two weeks after the first day of every academic semester.

If students would like, they can place a “No Release” for the information on their records. This would mean that all directory information under a student’s name would not be accessible to anyone except the student themselves. However, the university does recommend on their website that students should not always do this in the case prospective employers or honors society would like to contact a student for hire or joining the society.

Students do have a right to know if their private information is being put on public record by the university and they should know how to request what the university can or cannot put on the student directory. The transparency with the communication on what private information of theirs is placed on public record is somewhat lacking, but students can protect their private info by researching FERPA and making a request to the Registrar’s office to disclose certain info.

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