The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) provides students certain rights of access, privacy, and protection of education records.
This policy provides information relating to the rights of students under FERPA and Brown University’s policies and procedures when complying with FERPA. This policy applies to anyone who maintains, accesses, or otherwise uses education records on behalf of the University, which includes faculty, staff, and other University representatives with access to student education records, as well as all students.
- Directory Information - Term defined by FERPA to define a subset of Education Records which may be released without a student’s consent. For a list of the items that the University treats as directory information see Section 4(b) below.
- Education Records - Term defined by FERPA to describe records that are directly related to a student and are maintained by an educational institution or by a party acting for the institution.
- Personally Identifiable Information (PII) - Information that would reveal the identity of a student or make the student’s identity easily traceable.
- Student – FERPA defines a student as an individual who has reached 18 years of age or is attending a postsecondary institution at any age. Brown defines a student as an individual who is enrolled and actually attends the University. Attendance includes in person or by distance education.
1. Inspection and Review of Education Records. Students have the right to inspect and review their education records within 45 days of the day the appropriate University office receives a request for access. Students should submit a written request that specifically identifies the education record(s) they wish to inspect and review to the Office of the Registrar. Note that a request to inspect and review "all records" is not normally sufficient to identify records for inspection and review. The Office of the Registrar will work with the student and the applicable record-holding department to facilitate arrangements for the date, time, and place where the records may be inspected.
2. Documents Excluded from the Right of Access. Certain records and documents are excluded from the right of access and are not considered education records. Documents excluded from the right of student access under FERPA include, but are not limited to: records of members of the faculty and administration that are kept in their sole possession; records created and maintained by the Department of Public Safety for law enforcement purposes which are not maintained by other units of the University; employment records relating exclusively to an individual's capacity as an employee of the University; records of a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or paraprofessional that are made, maintained, or used only in connection with the treatment of a student; records that only contain information about a student after the student has graduated, withdrawn, or been permanently separated from the University; financial records (and information contained therein) of a student's parents/guardians; and confidential letters of recommendation to which the student has waived their right of access. Furthermore, the University is not generally required by FERPA to provide an eligible student with access to information that is not maintained by the University, that is not directly related to the individual student and, therefore, does not meet the definition of an education record, or to create education records in response to an eligible student's request.
3. Amendment of Student Education Records. Students may request that the University amend an education record that they believe is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of their privacy rights. A student seeking an amendment should write the University official responsible for the record, specifically identify the part of the record the student is requesting to have amended, and provide evidence as to why it is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the privacy rights of the student. Note that the basis for changing the records relate to the record as of the time it is made. Later changes in circumstances may not be used as a basis for retroactively changing the record.
The University will consider the request; however, it is not required to amend the record in accordance with the request. Should the University decide not to amend the record in accordance with the request, the University will notify the student of the decision and inform the student of their right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing (if applicable). The hearing, if applicable, may be conducted by any University official who does not have a direct interest in the outcome of the hearing. The University will not assign as the hearing officer either the individual who originally determined not to amend the education record or someone who is in a direct reporting or close collegial relationship with that individual.
If, as a result of the hearing, the University still decides not to amend the record, the University will inform the student of their right to insert a statement in the record commenting on the contested information and/or stating why they disagree with the decision of the University. The University will maintain that statement with the contested part of the student's record for as long as the record is maintained at the University.
The FERPA amendment procedure may be used to challenge facts that are inaccurately recorded; it may not be used to challenge a grade, an opinion, or a substantive decision made about a student. FERPA does not override the accepted standards and procedures for making academic assessments, disciplinary rulings, or placement determinations. If these amendment procedures are not applicable to a student's request for amendment of education records, the University is not required to hold a hearing on the matter.
4. Disclosure of Education Records With and Without Consent. A student’s education records may only be disclosed to third parties with the prior written consent of the student. (See Section 6 below for details regarding prior written consent.) However, certain education records may be disclosed without the prior written consent of a student pursuant to specific exceptions under FERPA that include, but are not limited to, the following:
a. Disclosures to University officials with legitimate educational interests. A University official is a person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom the University has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Corporation; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another University official in performing their tasks. A University official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill their professional responsibility;
b. At the University’s discretion, the University may disclose directory information which includes a student's: name, local and home addresses (including postal box), telephone number, electronic mail address, photographic, video or electronic images (please note that while the University classifies photos, videos and electronic images as directory information, these are rarely released to parties outside the University without the student's permission), date and place of birth, major field of study, anticipated or actual date of graduation, dates of attendance, enrollment status, class year, degrees and awards received, dates and place of employment contingent upon student status, graduate fellow/assistant status as a graduate fellow/assistant and teaching assignment, assistantships, fellowships, and residency placements, previous school or institution attended, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, University prizes, and relationship to an alumnus or alumna of the University. Parents or guardians of students may also be informed of important changes of enrollment status. Under certain extenuating circumstances, a student may request an exception to this rule. See Section 5 below for information on how to restrict of the sharing of directory information;
c. Disclosure to comply with a judicial order or a lawfully issued subpoena. In such cases, the University will make a reasonable effort to notify the student in advance of compliance unless prohibited by the terms of the subpoena or court order;
d. Disclosure in connection with financial aid for which the student has applied or which the student has received, as necessary to determine eligibility, amounts, or conditions of the financial aid, or to enforce the terms and conditions of the aid;
e. Disclosure, upon request, to officials of another educational institution where the student seeks or intends to enroll or is already enrolled;
f. Disclosure in connection with a health or safety emergency;
g. Disclosure of the results of an institutional disciplinary proceeding against the alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence may be released to the alleged victim of that crime with respect to that crime;
h. Disclosure of the final results (name, violation committed, and sanction imposed) of a disciplinary proceeding against a student who is an alleged perpetrator of any crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense if, as a result of the proceeding, it is determined that the student committed a violation of University rules or policies with respect to such crime or offense; and
i. Disclosure to parents or guardians of information concerning violations of law or University policies or rules regarding the use or possession of alcohol or controlled substances if the student has been found to have committed a disciplinary violation regarding that use or possession and the student is under the age of 21 at the time of disclosure.
5. Restrictions on the Disclosure of Directory Information.Students may restrict the release of directory information to third parties by initiating a directory block at any time. To initiate a directory block, a student can activate the “Confidentiality” flag in the Personal Information Update menu in the Banner Self Service web portal.
Should a student decide to issue a directory block, the student’s record will be marked as confidential, which will bar the University from responding to any requests for information about the student except where permitted or required under FERPA, such as when the University receives a subpoena. Implications of invoking a directory block include, but are not limited to:
a. The student’s name and email will not appear in the public directory on the Brown website and Gmail address book;
b. The University will be unable to verify enrollment or degrees conferred (this includes to potential employers who want verification of degree(s));
c. The University will not acknowledge any record of the student to any person or entity who inquires; and
d. The student's name will not be released to honor societies and award programs even if honors criteria are met.
Any changes to a directory block may not be effective immediately and may take up to 24 hours to process. A directory block will remain in effect until it is revoked by the student. The University will honor a student’s request to restrict directory information but cannot assume responsibility to contact the student for subsequent permission to release the block. The University assumes no liability for honoring student instructions that such information be withheld.
Please note that a directory block does not include the right to remain anonymous in class and may not be used to impede routine classroom communications and interactions, whether class is held in a specified physical location or on-line through electronic communications.
For more information regarding the placement of directory blocks, please contact the Office of the Registrar.
6. Prior Written Consent. Prior written consent is required for the University to disclose information from a student’s education record to third parties (outside of the allowable methods under FERPA). The University requires that prior written consent contain the following elements:
a. The student’s name (including as it appeared during their attendance at the University) and student identification number (if possible);
b. That the record may be disclosed by the University;
c. To whom the record may be disclosed;
d. The exact description of the record to be disclosed (the University does not accept consent for "any and all records" or that appears global or blanket in nature);
e. The purpose for the disclosure of the record; and
f. Signed by the student and dated within the past year.
For convenience, a copy of an Student Consent and Authorization for Release of Educational Records Under FERPA can be found on the Office of the Registrar’s website.
Please note that the University does not share official transcripts through third party requests for information. Students may request official transcripts through the Office of the Registrar’s website.
Students are responsible for changing or revoking any consents or authorizations granted.
The University does not accept verbal, oral, or spoken consent as valid consent.
7. Parents/Guardians. When a student reaches the age of 18, is no longer a "dependent" of the parent(s) or guardian(s) for federal income tax purposes, or attends a postsecondary institution, regardless of age, all FERPA rights belong to the student. This can be a major shift for families as students begin college. Before a student begins attending the University, families are encouraged to discuss how they will keep an open dialogue about student experiences, enrollment, and grades. Prior written consent from the student is required before the University can disclose information from a student’s education record to a parent or guardian outside of the allowable methods under FERPA as listed above. (See Section 6 above for details regarding prior written consent.)
Students may also choose to disclose certain academic information directly with a parent or guardian by granting proxy access, initiating automated notifications, and controlling confidentiality settings in the Banner Self Service web portal. Please visit “Granting Access to Your Academic Records” on the Office of the Registrar’s website for more information.
8. Where to File a Complaint About Alleged FERPA Violations. Complaints concerning alleged failures by the University to comply with the requirements of FERPA may be filed with the U.S. Department of Education at:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC, 20202-4605
or by visiting the Department of Education’s website.
Revised April 6, 2020