ice of the Registrar

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Loose Lips Sink Ships: FERPA Guidelines

Keeping the HMS Williams afloat requires care and vigilance from all of us and appropriate use of student records and the data contained in them is an essential aspect of this work! There are important limitations on accessing and sharing student information placed on us by federal legislation and college policy. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, often referred to as FERPA or the Buckley Amendment, provides considerable protection to our students and their records and legal sanctions against the College if we do not comply. Therefore, it is necessary to understand your responsibilities before being provided on-line access to portions of the Student Information System which contain confidential information.

Under FERPA, information is divided into two categories: directory and non-directory. The law covers the educational records of living persons who are attending, or who have attended, the College so the following procedures and policies cover both students and living alumni/ae.

Unless the student or alumnus/a specifies otherwise to the Registrar, the College may, but is not required to, release what it defines as directory information without the prior consent of the individual. Except under specific circumstances stipulated in the legislation, e.g. in response to a lawful subpoena or an emergency, the College may not release non-directory information without the prior consent of the student or alumnus/a.

Williams defines the following as directory information: name; permanent and College addresses; campus electronic mail address; permanent and campus telephone numbers; date and place of birth; major field, extra-curricular activities; height and weight of members of athletic teams; dates of attendance; degrees, honors and awards; other schools attended. Although this information is defined as directory or "public" under the law, we do not release it indiscriminately. We do not, for instance, provide directories to outside agencies who wish to prepare mailing lists or otherwise solicit our students. We would ask that you also follow this procedure. Please direct inquiries for information from off-campus to the Office of the Registrar.

In general, faculty and staff have access to personally identifiable non-directory information about students as long as they have a legitimate educational interest in the data, or a "need to know." Common legitimate interests might include accessing a record to be able to advise the student about course selections, fulfilling major or distribution requirements, or other similar academic advising matters. Seeking information to assist in writing a letter of recommendation would be another legitimate reason as would checking to insure that the student has met prerequisite requirements for a course or eligibility criteria for an award. Gathering information to update department or program records or verifying that a student has added or dropped a course would also be allowable.

Releasing personally identifiable non-directory information to others without prior permission from the student or alumnus/a is illegal. You cannot, for instance, provide information about grades to others, even parents, unless the student or alumnus/a has given you prior permission to share the data. You cannot even share course registration information with other students.

By accepting access privileges to the College's Student Information System, you agree to abide by these regulations and also agree not to share your access password codes with others.

Questions about these procedures or related matters should be directed to the Registrar at ext. 4286, or Barbara.Casey@williams.edu for response.


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