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Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, is a Federal law which states (a) that a written institutional policy must be established and (b) that a statement of adopted procedures covering the privacy rights of students be made available.  The law provides that the institution will maintain the confidentiality of student education records.    

Rhodes College accords all the rights under the law to enrolled students. No one outside the institution shall have access to nor will the institution disclose, any information from students’ education records without the written consent of students except to personnel within the institution, to officials of other institutions in which students seek to enroll, to persons or organizations providing students financial aid, to agencies carrying out their accreditation function, to persons in compliance with a judicial order, and to persons in an emergency in order to protect the health or safety of students or other persons. All these exceptions are permitted under the Act. Only those members of the College community, individually or collectively, acting in the students’ educational interest are allowed access to student education records. These members include personnel in the Student Development and Academic Services Office, including student workers in that office, and the professional staff of Financial Aid, Institutional Research, and College officials with a legitimate educational interest as determined by the registrar.

At its discretion the institution may provide directory information in accordance with the provisions of the Act including name, parents’ names, campus and home addresses and telephone numbers, cellular phone numbers, dates of attendance, photograph, year of graduation, degrees and honors awarded or expected, academic major, email address, and faculty adviser. Students may withhold directory information by notifying the Registrar in writing at least 60 days prior to the first day of class for the fall semester. The permission to release academic information remains in force for a student's entire enrollment at Rhodes unless the Registrar is notified of a change.

In addition, the institution at its discretion may disclose student record information without consent of disclosure to the parents of a dependent student as defined in Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 and as verified by the institution. Full rights under the act shall be given to either parent, unless the institution has been provided with evidence that there is a court order, state statute, or other legally binding document relating to such matters as divorce, separation or custody that specifically revokes these rights. The institution also has the discretion to disclose to any parent or legal guardian of a student under the age of 21 information about a violation of any federal, state, or local law, or any rule or policy of the institution governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if the institution determines that the student has committed a disciplinary violation with respect to such use or possession. 

The law provides students with the right to inspect and review information contained in their education records, to challenge the contents of their education records, to have a hearing if the outcome of the challenge is unsatisfactory, and to submit explanatory statements for inclusion in their files if the decisions of the hearing panels are unacceptable. The Registrar at Rhodes College has been designated by the institution to coordinate the inspection and review procedures for student education records, which include admissions, personal, academic, and financial files, and academic and placement records. Students wishing to review their education records must make written requests to the Registrar listing the item or items of interest. Only records covered by the Act will be made available within forty-five days of the request. Students may have copies made of their records with certain exceptions, e.g., a copy of the academic record for which a financial "hold" exists or a transcript of an original or source document that exists elsewhere). Education records do not include records of instructional, supervisory, administrative, and educational personnel that are the sole possession of the maker and are not accessible or revealed to any individual except a temporary substitute. Other records not included are those of the Campus Safety department, student health records, employment records (except those records of student workers), or alumni records. Health records, however, may be reviewed by physicians of the students’ choosing.

Students may not inspect and review the following as outlined by the Act: financial information submitted by their parents; confidential letters and recommendations associated with admission to the College, employment or job placement, or honors to which they have waived their rights of inspection and review; or education records containing information about more than one student, in which case the institution will permit access only to that part of the record which pertains to the inquiring student. The institution is not required to permit students to inspect and review confidential letters and recommendations placed in their files prior to January 1, 1975, provided those letters were collected under established policies of confidentiality and were used only for the purposes for which they were collected.     

Students who believe that their education records contain information that is inaccurate or misleading, or is otherwise in violation of their privacy or other rights, may discuss their problems informally with the Registrar. If the decisions of the Registrar are in agreement with the students’ requests, the appropriate records will be amended. If not, the students will be notified within a reasonable period of time that the records will not be amended; and they will be informed of their right to a formal hearing. Student requests for a formal hearing must be made in writing to the Dean of the Faculty who, within a reasonable period of time after receiving such requests, will inform students of the date, place, and the time of the hearings. Students may present evidence relevant to the issues raised and may be assisted or represented at the hearings by one or more persons of their choice, including attorneys, at the students’ expense. The hearing panel that will adjudicate such challenges will be the Faculty Standards and Standing Committee.

Decisions of the hearing panel will be final, will be based solely on the evidence presented at the hearing, and will consist of written statements summarizing the evidence and stating the reasons for the decisions, and will be delivered to all parties concerned. The education records will be corrected or amended in accordance with the decisions of the hearing panels, if the decisions are in favor of the students. If the decisions are unsatisfactory to the students the students may place with the education records statements commenting on the information in the records, or statements setting forth any reasons for disagreeing with the decisions of the hearing panels. The statements will be placed in the education records, and released whenever the records in question are disclosed. 

Students who believe that the adjudication of their challenges were unfair or not in keeping with the provisions of the Act may request, in writing, assistance from the president of the institution to aid them in filing complaints with The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Office (FERPA), Department of Education, Washington, D.C. 20201. 

Revisions and clarifications of this policy will be published as experience with the law and the institutional policy warrants. Annual notice of compliance with the Act is published in the College Catalogue.