Policy Number: D15.0

Policy Name: RIT EDUCATIONAL RECORDS

 

The purpose of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (commonly known as the Buckley Amendment), along with its various clarifying amendments, as explained in the Congressional Record of December 13, 1974, is to assure students "over the age of 18 or attending an institution of post-secondary education [to] access to their educational records and to protect such individuals' rights to privacy by limiting the transferability of their records without their consent." RIT complies with the spirit and the requirements of the Buckley Amendment, utilizing high standards of reasonableness both in providing students access to records being kept on them and in assuring the confidentiality of these records in terms of their release to third parties.

I. DEFINITIONS

This policy applies to all students. A student is defined as any person currently enrolled or who has ever been enrolled in a course at RIT. No distinction is made between part-time and full-time students. Thus, any person who has ever registered for a course at RIT has rights concerning access to and confidentiality of their educational records under this policy. Persons who applied for admission but never actually attended RIT as enrolled students are not covered by this policy.

Educational Records are defined as records, files, documents, and other materials which (i) contain information directly related to a student; and (ii) are maintained by RIT.

Several categories of materials are specifically excluded from the definition of an educational record and are not accessible to students. These are:

  1. Personal notes of faculty and administrators which are not available to any third party except to a substitute instructor (grade books, notes, etc.).

  2. Employment records.

  3. Records of physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, or any other professionals or paraprofessionals (Counseling Center, Student Health, Academic Support Center) used in the treatment of students are not available to anyone except those persons providing the treatment. These records can, however, be viewed by an outside physician or qualified professional of the student's choice. Records about attendance (as opposed to content) can be shared with individuals within RIT who have a legitimate educational interest in the knowledge.

New York State has an eighteen-year-old age of majority law giving all persons over the age of eighteen, which includes most college students, the full rights and responsibilities of adults. The Buckley Amendment, however, makes no distinction between the rights of college students older or younger than eighteen and distinguishes only between dependent students and non-dependent students, dependency on parents being determined according to IRS definitions.

II. ACCESS TO EDUCATIONAL RECORDS

All students, regardless of age, have a right under this policy of access to and confidentiality of their educational records. The parents (or guardian) of a dependent student have the same rights of access to the records of the student, regardless of the student's age. The parents (or guardian) of a nondependent student are not permitted access without the student's written consent. Except in unusual situations, RIT will not initiate the release of any information or records to parents and expects students to keep their parents informed to whatever degree the individual students and parents deem appropriate.

Students will be permitted full access to review their educational records, as defined above, within forty-five (45) days of their written requests to do so. Departments may charge for the "release" of student records. In most cases the charge is made only for the duplication of records if requested. No charge is made for the viewing of records.

III. CONFIDENTIALITY OF EDUCATIONAL RECORDS

  1. Directory Information

Directory information may be released by RIT. Any student not wishing any one or more items of the below information released must inform the Office of the Registrar to this effect in writing and such information concerning that student will not be released to anyone after receipt of the notice. RIT cannot be selective. If a student makes a request that information not be released, it will not be released even to someone who is a close friend or family member (except parents of dependent students). Directory information includes:

1. Name
2. Program
3. Local Address
4. Home Address
5. Local Telephone Number
6. Place of Birth
7. Dates of attendance at RIT
8. Degrees and Awards or Honors Received
9. Most Recent Previous Educational Institution attended by the student
  1. Release of Restricted Information

In most cases, student educational records are considered restricted information and may be viewed by the individual student to whom they pertain, but will not be released to a third party without written release from the student specifying which records are to be released, and to whom. Copies of transcripts, grade reports, and academic advising reports are included in this category. There are eight circumstances under which the university may release educational records without written consent of the student:

  1. In compliance with judicial orders or lawful subpoenas, but a good faith attempt will be undertaken to notify the student of such lawful order or subpoena before the records are released;

  2. To internal RIT instructors or officials (including in some limited instances student office workers) who have been determined by RIT to have a legitimate educational interest in the records, and who give assurance that the records will be used in an ethical and professional manner;

  3. To parents of a dependent student;

  4. In cases of emergency where information is necessary or will assist in protecting the health or safety of the student or other persons;

  5. To officials of schools in which a student seeks enrollment or intends to enroll, but the student will be notified of the release, receive a copy of the records if s/he so desires, and have an opportunity for a hearing to challenge the records before they are released;

  6. In connection with a student's application for or receipt of financial aid;

  7. To authorized federal or state educational authorities in compliance with state or federal laws;

  8. To accrediting agencies and organizations conducting studies relating to testing, student aid programs or improving instruction, provided the records released do not permit personal identification of students or their parents and the information is destroyed when no longer needed for the specific study for which it was released.
Restricted Information includes: If RIT intends to release information about a student without the student's prior consent to someone outside RIT (other than to the parent or guardian of a a dependent student), RIT will make a good faith attempt to notify the student prior to the release of the record in order to give the student an opportunity to object to the proposed release.

Educational records of a student will not otherwise be released by RIT without written consent from the student specifying which records are to be released and to whom. A copy of the records released will also be sent to the student upon request, provided they are materials s/he has the right to see under this policy. There are, however, several exceptions contained in this policy.

Access to or release of educational records will be logged. Besides names and dates, this log must also list the specific justifying interest of each person or agency which obtained access to the records. A student has the right to review the log.

Third parties to whom records are released with student consent will be notified in writing by RIT that any further release of materials from these records without written authorization from the student is prohibited by law.

  1. Student E-Mail Addresses

RIT does not consider student e-mail addresses directory information as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). Consequently, distribution of e-mail addresses is limited to officials of RIT for purposes of legitimate university related business.

If RIT has contracted with an external person or company for appropriate university related business activities, the person or company must verify that there will not be a redistribution or release of e-mail information provided to them by RIT for any purpose other than that contracted for or without the advance approval of RIT.

Questions regarding this policy may be directed to the Office of the Registrar.

  1. Privileged Information

Students are specifically denied access to two kinds of materials within their educational records under the law:

  1. Parental financial records provided in conjunction with applications for financial aid;

  2. Confidential letters of recommendation placed in the educational records of the student prior to January 1, 1975, provided that the letters are used for no purposes other than those for which they were originally intended. A student, however, will be given upon request a list of all names of persons making recommendations which are contained within his/her educational records.

  3. Students or applicants for admission are permitted to sign waivers of access to confidential letters of recommendation received after January 1, 1975, with the same conditions applying as stated above for letters received before January 1, 1975. Waivers of access will not, however, be required by the university as a condition for admission or for the receipt of financial aid or any other services or benefits provided by the university.

IV. RECORDS DESTRUCTION

The university may destroy materials contained in a student's educational records, if not precluded by law, unless a student (or parent of a dependent student) has requested access to the educational records prior to the destruction. Once a legitimate request of access to records has been received, the university will not destroy any materials contained within the educational records until such access has been granted or a determination by RIT's legal counsel has been made that access to the records is not required under this policy or the law.

V. STUDENT RIGHTS TO CORRECT RECORDS AND CHALLENGE THEIR RELEASE TO OTHERS

RIT will not only permit students access to their educational records, but will also respond to reasonable requests for explanations and interpretations of these records. If a student is unable to resolve disputes or concerns over his/her records in an informal manner, s/he will be afforded the opportunity for a hearing to challenge any materials contained within the educational records, to request correction or deletion of any inaccurate, misleading, or inappropriate data contained within the records, and to insert any written explanation concerning the contents of the educational records deemed appropriate by the student (except where involving faculty grades where a formal grade grievance policy is available). Such hearings will be conducted by an administrative official of the department whose records are in question; the hearing officer, however, must not be an administrative official who has a direct interest in the outcome of the hearing.

Such hearings are for the sole purpose of guaranteeing the accuracy of records and could not, for example, be used by a student as an opportunity to challenge a grade given to him, but only to verify that a grade was given and accurately recorded in the records. The student will be informed in writing of the decision reached by the hearing officer. Decisions concerning academic records can be appealed to the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. Decisions concerning student discipline, housing, health service, counseling or other records can be appealed to the vice president for Student Affairs.

VI. NOTIFICATION OF POLICIES

RIT will inform students on an annual basis of their rights of access to and confidentiality of their educational records, and the policies governing access to and release of information from these files.

VII. LOCATION OF RECORDS

In compliance with the act, RIT has compiled a complete listing of all departments which maintain records on students, along with the policies governing access to and release of materials from these records. Each department that maintains student files at RIT has a complete listing of the policies governing the files maintained, including a specific description of the types of records kept, the office where the records are kept, the identity of the person responsible for the records, those persons who have access to the records, the policies governing access to and release of information from the records, the procedures for challenging any materials kept in the records, and the kinds of "Directory Information" that might be released from these records. The following types of records are maintained at RIT:

Registrar: The Office of the Registrar maintains the official academic records of all students, past or present. These records contain only academic information and are kept in file folders, computer files, and on microfilm. Records consist of all application and admission materials (letters of recommendation, transcripts from previous schools, educational services test scores, etc.), permanent records of courses of study, grades, credits and degrees received at RIT, and personal data (permanent address, next of kin's address, social security number, date of birth, dates of attendance, current address and telephone number etc.). Students are granted access to these records, except for confidential letters of recommendation. Materials are released upon written request of the student; a fee is charged for preparation and release of an official transcript.

Academic Departments: Academic records are also kept in the specific departmental offices of the academic programs in which students are enrolled. These records consist of duplicate copies of the Registrar's records plus departmental records generated during the student's course of study (cooperative education records, counseling reports, independent study reports, correspondence with the student, academic misconduct reports, etc.). Students have access rights to these records, except for confidential letters of recommendation. Materials will be released at the written request of the student; a fee per page may be charged for student-requested duplication and release of these records. Students have no access rights to the personal files, records, grade books, etc. maintained by faculty members for the sole use of the faculty member or his/her substitute.

Students are directed to the office of the dean of the college. The dean or his/her designee will direct the student to the exact location of the student's departmental records which may be kept centrally or may be maintained at the departmental unit. Colleges are listed below:

Matters beyond the purview of the departments listed above may be directed to the provost.

Student Affairs: The following departments within the Division of Student Affairs maintain records on students:

Student Conduct and Conflict Management Services maintains disciplinary files. All materials are available to the student and will be released by written student request.
Academic Support Center maintains instructional plan and academic test files on all students enrolled at the center. All materials are available to the student and will be released by written student request.
Higher Educational Opportunity Program office maintains financial and academic record files, plus counseling and tutoring records for all HEOP students. All materials are available to the student; all records are public information except for names of students. Identifiable material will be released by written student request.
Counseling Center maintains files on students who come to the center for counseling or testing. These files are confidential and students have no access rights; files may be viewed by an outside qualified professional of the student's choice. Materials will be released to third parties by written student request.
Student Health maintains files on students who come to the center for medical reasons. These files are confidential but may be viewed by an outside professional of the student's choice. Materials will be released by written student request.

Admissions: The Admissions Office maintains no files on RIT students. Records on individuals who applied for admission but never enrolled are not accessible to the applicant through RIT; admission records of enrolled students are transferred to the Registrar's Office upon payment of an admissions deposit.

Cooperative Education & Career Services: The office maintains student records associated with cooperative education placement activity and reference files in support of graduating student employment efforts. All records are available and accessible to students with the exception of those written references to which a student has voluntarily waived access in accordance with the standards established by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Financial Aid: The Financial Aid Office maintains files with confidential financial data on students and parents and guardians who apply for financial aid, the amount of aid from outside agencies (i.e. state grants, miscellaneous scholarships), applications for federal loans, and federal eligibility reports. These files are confidential. Files may be viewed by auditors, state, federal and internal personnel per regulations and program requirements. Students have access rights to information they submitted as part of an application for aid. Financial information submitted by parents and guardians will be released to students only by written parent or guardian request.

Housing Operations: The Housing Operations Office maintains files containing all materials related to on-campus housing. Students have full access to these files; materials will be released by written student request.

Public Safety: Public Safety records are not educational records covered by this policy. Public Safety maintains incident reports (involving injury, property damage, or crime), field interview forms, accident reports, alcohol reports, and traffic tickets. Motor vehicle accident, personal property damage and theft initial incident reports can be released by Public Safety to individuals. Public Safety records that are forwarded to the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Management Services become educational records and can be released through the Office of Student Conduct and Mediation Services in accordance with this policy. Public Safety may release information it has concerning on-campus arrest by outside law enforcement agencies.

Business Continuity Office: The Business Continuity Office maintains directory information for purposes of emergency notification using an Automatic Notification System. The information is not used for any other purpose than for emergency notification. This is a voluntary program and students may opt-out of receiving emergency notifications.Any questions concerning the Buckley Amendment as it applies at RIT or concerning RIT's policies on records should be directed to the Office of the Registrar.

Responsible Office: Office of the Registrar

Effective Date: Approved October 5, 1994

Policy History:
Edited November 2003
Last Revised October 31, 2007
Edited September 2010
Edited May 8, 2013-calendar and college/department name updates